Friday, June 22, 2007

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup...

Why does TCM always show the good stuff during the weekday hours when I'm usually at work? I got off work at 4:00 a.m. again last night and had the day off, if you want to call it that. I spent most of the day vegging in front of the TV, watching Turner Classic Movies. The film that prompted this post is SUNSET BLVD. with Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

I don't watch a lot of old movies usually because I think I suffer from the same delusion that most people today do. We think that because we have so many fancy tools like HD video cameras, CGI and digital surround sound that movies made today are somehow better than the ones made back in the 1930's, '40s and '50s. This is absolutely not the case and watching SUNSET BLVD. today really drove that home. (This is a lesson we comic book fans could learn as well. Computer effects and graphic sex and violence do not a great comic make.)

This is such a timeless film. So many of the themes still hit home today. Fear of growing old, the need for attention (Paris Hilton, anyone?), jealousy, denial, unrequited love. I've seen it once before, in my Film History class back in college. But I don't think I was prepared for it then. I didn't know quite what I was watching. Those Carol Burnett Show parodies ("Max! Come here, Maxxssssssss!") were still a little too fresh in my mind I guess. Whatever the case, I was really moved by it today in a way that I wasn't back then.

The performers lived up to their reputations. William Holden was terrific as the washed up screenwriter looking for one last break and Gloria Swanson's has-been movie star is just chilling. The last five minutes of SUNSET BLVD. are as horrifying and spooky as any modern horror film. The cinematography just blew me away. That iconic shot of Holden floating facedown in the pool at the beginning (so I'm not spoiling anything) is remembered even today for a reason.

This has left me hungry for more movies like this. I went through a Bogie phase last year and started renting all his private eye movies (BIG SLEEP, MALTESE FALCON) and had a blast. Now I think it's William Holden's turn. And a friend has recently recommended the THIN MAN series for the clever dialogue and characterization. So, it's off to NetFlix I go...


todd said...

i totally agree with you about the timing of such classics and i'm still just learning to program this dvr we just got...
also, you got me laughing with the carol burnett reference! ha! i remember watching sunset blvd and laughing out loud at gloria swanson because of corl's impression of her. and gone with the wind was a laugh riot 'cause of the gown made from the drapes.
"i just saw it hanging in the window."
sharon and i have been digging on the thin man movies with willaim powell and myrna loy thanks to the nick cardy video lending library. great stuff! if you haven't already seen them, check it out!

Eric said...

If you're not one of those people who are ethicically opposed to Wal-Mart (I can't help it -- there's not another store that sells DVDs within 45 miles of here), Sunset Blvd. occasionally pops up in their $4.88 bin.

I can't think of many more noirish movies that William Holden was in, but I suggest checking out the detective-style movies of Alan Ladd (best known as Shane)-- The Glass Key, This Gun For Hire, The Blue Dahlia (with screenplay by Raymond Chandler).

Also, I second the suggestion for the Thin Man series.

Eric said...

Oh, and here's a funny story -- the movie didn't originally start with Holden floating, it started with bodies on slabs in the morgue telling each other how they died. There were a few little anecdotes, and then Holden told his story.

Wilder cut it after preview audiences couldn't stop laughing during the scene.