Monday, July 5, 2010


“I am big… its pictures that got small.”
- Norma Desmond

Glamour…fame…fans…they all fade slowly and steadily in place called HOLLYWOOD.
Two thumbs up for Billy Wilder and absolutely brilliant Gloria Swanson for this scathing satire on fading reel/real life of screen idol and her fame which no longer remain same. It’s an in depth look of silent era’s aging Hollywood star and her fading career and empty life. Norma Desmond is still living in her grim huge mention, basking in the world of lost glory with her proud and fake arrogance. She’s still sleepwalking along the giddy heights of her lost career and plain crazy about one subject: her celluloid self image. She has a stalwart servant and surprisingly her first husband at her disposal who feeds her lies and lies about her fan following and let her remain cozy to her hallucination of greatest stardom. Until she meets a strange script writer and fall in love with him.

Wilder shows us the dark face of screen and fickleness of profession that trades in the world of pipe dreaming. Remembering an equally tragic play by Eugene O’Neill named ‘Iceman Cometh’. Its too dark tragedy and more melodramatic than any other Wilder films so far. The climax is shatteringly tragic as Joe showed her the face of ugly reality and her fake pretence. It’s outstandingly brilliant tragic end- the star is not dead but he’s not alive any longer. She’s still star in her own madness facing crime reporters’ camera as returning to studio again. What a tragedy!!

The casting of Gloria Swanson was pitch perfect as in real life too she’s silent star of 20’s bygone era then and had no film on her platter when Wilder approached her. And still it’s this film why the world will remember her forever. Watch her in the last ten minutes of the film where she marked her permanent stamp…a pipe dreaming lady unable to face the reality amid the most shocking tragedy of her life. A great cinematic moment indeed!!! William Holden is Wilder regular and he too delivered perfectly controlled act. Surprise of the package is to see three legendary filmmakers as actors in the film- Erich Von Stroheim in great supporting role, Cecile B. DeMile in brief but significant role and my favorite silent icon Buster Keaton in cameo as himself (playing cards at table in a single scene). It’s ironic to know that though nominated for eleven categories at Oscar including best actress, best actor, best supporting actor and best director, it won only consolation prize sort of three awards in best writing, best music and best art direction.

Well I have seen many Hollywood classics but when it’s time to narrate the drama nobody comes nearer to Billy Wilder. He’s not only great Hollywood director but brilliant screenplay writer too; making his dramas as compelling and interesting as his noires and romantic comedies. His companionship with Brackett gave us great films- ‘Double Indemnity’, ‘The Lost Weekend’ and the last is this masterpiece. Wonder why they stopped working together after this; another Hollywood mystery maybe!

Wilder’s Masterpiece and perhaps the best film Hollywood made on Hollywood.


PS- I equally love Guru Dutt’s take on Hindi film industry’s fading director in ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’. Do catch it too if you haven’t. It’s equally as tragic and as great as this one.

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