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More than half a century after its release in 1950, Sunset Boulevard is still the most pungently unflattering portrait of Hollywood ever committed to celluloid. Billy Wilder, unequalled at combining a literate, sulphurous script with taut direction, hits his target relentlessly.
Narrated in flashback by the corpse of luckless screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) floating facedown in a Los Angeles swimming pool, Wilder’s audaciously dark examination of the Hollywood dream factory cruelly casts faded silent-movie star Gloria Swanson as has-been silent star Norma Desmond. Festering in the grandeur of her old dark mansion and daydreaming of comeback, the character is a brutal warning about the unchecked egotism of superstardom. 'I’m still big!' she insists, 'it’s the pictures that got small.'