Film: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
dir. Billy Wilder | 110 min | 1950
An iconic exploration of the film industry, this Oscar winner is set in the epicenter of the dream factory amidst budding fascination with Hollywood scandals and portrays a duplicitous tale of murder, deception, and fading glory. An aging silent film star played by Gloria Swanson seeks a comeback while finding herself at Tinseltown’s complicated intersection of gender and age.
In a tale told by a dead man, Sunset Boulevard is a grim look at the Hollywood intersection of faded fame and thwarted ambition. Tapped out screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) stumbles into the orbit of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a forgotten movie star with delusions about her circumstances and a mausoleum-like home. Needing a place to hide from his debts, Gillis agrees to co-write an absurd script for the triumphant return of Desmond, who slips further into a fantasy. Desmond becomes increasingly possessive of Gillis, who balks at being a kept man and who plans to leave. Desmond’s world is peopled by other former stars on the far downside of careers. In brilliant casting, Erich von Stroheim, Buster Keaton, and Anna Q. Nilsson provide a bizarre touch of verisimilitude in their roles as forgotten stars. What emerges is a savage take on what a descent into obscurity looks like. Part A Rose for Emily, part Grey Gardens, Wilder’s film combines pathos, hopelessness and the absurd – for starters, a midnight burial of a pet monkey. It adds up to starkly atmospheric, must-see film.
The winter/spring 2019 noir program is a journey into the dark side of domestic entanglements, with the noir lens focused on darkened living rooms and bedrooms. Looking beyond noir’s usual suspects, the lineup includes kept men, dangerous daughters, obsessive uncles, cheating spouses, sons with mother issues, and criminally inclined clans. While the relationships vary, violence, bad ends, psychological damage, and obsesssions bind the characters. Screenings will be followed by discussions of the intersection of noir sensibilities and domestic relationships.
Presented in the original 16mm format, this is an important regional opportunity to reconnect with the unique sensory conditions of cinema presented on celluloid film. While recent digital restorations have allowed new audiences to more fully appreciate the quality of the cinematographic vision of classic directors, experiencing the magic tactility of the flicker and hum of traditional filmic media is an integral experience to their presentation. Join us in staying curious and keeping endangered media histories alive and thriving in Portland.
KinoNoir is presented on the second Monday of the month by Kinonik with support from the Maine Humanities Council.
Kinonik’s mission is to promote and support the study of cinema through theatrical screenings projected from film. Kinonik screens 16mm films from the donated collection of Juris Ubans and donated academic collections; the eclectic selection offers a rich overview of film from the early days of cinema to the 60s. Join us in the shared darkness to rediscover the power of 24 fps communal cinema.