August 07, 2003

I'm still's the posts that got long. Soaking wet from the rain and the humidity, stumbling back home from an evening with Miss D'Lish (and you better not cut in front of her on line!), catching the luscious new digital print of Sunset Boulevard at the Film Forum. As you can imagine, a fine time was had by both, with the only regret being the hot sauce we slathered on our falafels at the better-than-you'd-expect little hole-in-the-wall mideastern place next to the perhaps-not-abandoned Waverly Theater.

But about SB: it's one of my favoritest movies ever, and by now I've seen it at least ten times (though this was the first time on a big screen), but the funny thing is that my perspective on the film has changed so radically from my earliest viewings that it's almost like I'm seeing a different film. I remember just being blown away the first time I saw it, amazed by the razor-sharp script, the caustic and unsentimental look at Hollywood, the utter weirdness of much of the film, and the terrific performances. Most of all, though, there was the classic character of Norma Desmond, wonderfully played by Gloria Swanson.

The character is so vivid that it wasn't until I had seen the film a half-dozen times that I stopped focusing so much on Norma Desmond and began to take a closer look at William Holden's Joe Gillis, and what I realized really changed how I watch the film. To summarize:

Joe Gillis is a complete scumbag.

Once that thought entered my head, Sunset Boulevard was no longer the story of a former star clinging to her faded dreams with the help of a down-on-his-luck writer who unwittingly becomes tangled in her web of delusion. Instead, it's about a probably-talentless, at-wits-end hack who stumbles upon a near-insane-but-minding-her-own-business former star and conspires to become her kept man, and is happy to collect the fancy clothes and jewelry until said star becomes jealous of his new love interest, who just happens to be his best friend's fiancee.

Gillis's closing narration about how "life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her." is no longer as poignant, especially now that I think that he, almost deliberately, put her over the edge. And while I'm not saying that he deserved to die, those last few stumbles of his into the swimming pool now seem strangely satisfying. Poor, poor Norma Desmond...
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