Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Director Billy Wilder created one of his most enduring masterpieces in this dark, glittering, poison-pen letter to all things Hollywood, told in flashback by screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), whose final job is playing paid companion to egocentric, aging silent-film goddess Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who lives entombed in a mausoleum-like mansion. With nothing better on the go, Joe allows himself to become a kept man in Norma’s smothering clutches, and is soon in way, way over his head.
A mordant, macabre film noir that embraces the genre’s doom-laden fatalism — the movie is narrated by a corpse! — SUNSET BOULEVARD was the final collaboration between Wilder and long-time writing partner and producer Charles Brackett. It’s noir at its most brittle, bizarre, and baroque — and the blackest of all Hollywood’s scab-scratching accounts of itself. A dreamy fairy tale of madness and broken dreams, it’s one of David Lynch’s favorite films and has had a profound influence on his work.