Spoilers for movie in post below
In an American cinema class I took in the Spring semester of 2018, we watched a film noir called Sunset Boulevard. It was released in 1950 and starred William Holsen, Erich von Stroheim, and silent film actress Gloria Swanson. At the time of watching in 2018, I had no clue what was going on, but I decided to rewatch it while in quarantine. This film uses your stereotypical film noir devices such as black and white while color was an option, opening with a dead body floating in a pool, and flashbacks.
Joe Gillis stumbles upon Norma Desmond’s mansion after a police chase. He convinces her to let him write a script for her and moves into her mansion. Joe begins to realize that Norma is delusional, but he stays because Norma has money and is suicidal. In typical film noirs, the femme fatale is attractive so they can tempt the main character, but Sunset Boulevard uses success and money to pull in Joe. Joe begins to work nights with Betty, a script reader for Paramount, and falls in love with her. Norma finds a script with both Bettys and Joe’s name on it, calls her over, and Joe tells Norma she will never be famous again. As he is walking out, Norma shoots him in the back many times, and says the famous line “I’m ready for my close-up.”
This movie shows the disgusting nature of Hollywood. Once an actor or actress is past their prime, in Norma’s case: The Silent Film Era, they will rot and become nobody. Hollywood and social media today warps the minds of people, so they become desperate for attention, which is shown in the “close-up” scene. Lastly, this film shows us that there is failure in life. In typical film noirs, there are characters that struggle with drug addiction, alcoholism, or gambling, but in this one, there is only one enemy and that is time.