Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Chosen by Victoria Charvill who had this to say about it: 'I LOVE this film. It's some of the best scriptwriting ever, it's witty and extremely quotable. Swanson's character is fabulous, totally lost in her own world, she's incredible. Max, Erich von Stroheim, is a wonderful character too who is so protective of Desmond.'
I always hate the idea that somehow things aren't as good as they used to be. 'Comedies aren't as funny' they say. 'Science fiction isn't clever any more', 'Horror isn't scary now' they moan. This isn't a new thing of course. I expect some of the people listening to camp fire telling's of Homer's The Odyssey were all 'Bah I remember the first time I heard this, it used to have awesome battle sound effects now it's all hollow words'. There will always be good stories and bad. And people won't agree which category they fit into anyway.
Sunset Boulevard shows the bitter, crazy endgame of this horrid nostalgia.
Norma Desmond is one of the great monsters of cinema (and like some of the best villains is not unsympathetic) played with a ghoulish verve by Swanson. Stuck in the past ('They took the idols and smashed them, the Fairbankses, the Gilberts, the Valentinos! And who've we got now? Some nobodies!') without being able to see the greatness around her (Holden is amazing here, with a complex not entirely sympathetic main character).
The film is very funny, full of famously quotable lines, great performances and directed with terrific style by co-writer Billy Wilder.
They sure don't make 'em like this any more (except, you know, for all the great movies that are made every year).