SUNSET BLVD.

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Nov. 21, 2014

Billy Wilder has made many great movies — "Double Indemnity," "Stalag 17," "Witness for the Prosecution," "The Apartment," "Some Like it Hot" and many more.

But "Sunset Blvd." (1950, b/w) stands out as a strong example of film noir as satire, in this case specifically skewering Hollywood with its story of a down-on-his-luck screenwriter (William Holden) hired by former silent-movie star Norma Desmond (real-life former silent-movie star Gloria Swanson) to "doctor" an existing script for her comeback vehicle.

But Norma is living in the past with only her ever-faithful valet (played by another silent star, Erich von Stroheim) to protect her, and he has a secret that is revealed late in the film.

Norma grows closer to falling off the precipice of sanity as her delusions overtake her. And that may explain why the film opens with the body of Holden's character floating in a swimming pool at Norma's mansion.

      

There are many memorable lines and scenes in this movie, and it has the distinction of being the first to be narrated by a dead man as Holden's voiceover narration begins with that first shot of him in the water. It's a technique that was unique at the time, though it's been copied many times since, from "American Beauty" to TV's "Desperate Housewives."

"Sunset Blvd" is a great film and one that benefits from being seen on the big screen, which you can do next Friday (Nov. 28) through the following Thursday (Dec. 4) at the Tower Theater. It will play daily at noon and on Tuesday at 7 p.m.