Sunset Blvd. and Film Noir

Essay by crydeeA+, February 2006

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Film noir means "Black Cinema," it was a French label given to a Hollywood genre that developed in the 1940s and ended around 1958. The word black to describe this genre lets many darker things be explored in these movies. The 1950 film Sunset Blvd. by Billy Wilder fits the moods, characteristics, goals, and story of Film Noir.

The moods Sunset Blvd. include bleakness, distrust, alienation, guilt, desperation, paranoia, ambiguous morals, and disillusionment; they are components of film noir. The very opening scene of Sunset Blvd. was a picture of a sidewalk with dried up leaves, and the words Sunset Blvd. stenciled in there; a very dark image overall. Giving us a sense of the grim and bleak story we are about to see. With the opening scene of a dead guy, we have the minor music playing with the soon followed voice-over. The narrator, Joe Gilles, is desperate, and is paranoid from the very beginning he tells us the story of the dead guy.

The sharp, witty, reflective, confessional, and convoluted stories voice-overs are great examples of film noir's voice-overs. Joe is confessing to us his situation and relays it to us in his street-smart dialogue that includes lots of slang. The beginning voice-overs has Joe painting his desperate situation, he has no money, he owes money, and he can't sell a script. It leads him to his paranoid mood so he parks his car across the street so no one could find it if they came looking for it since he owed the car payment. The desperation and paranoid mood can be seen in other areas of the film too. Norma Desmond is desperate for attention. The lack of locks because of her suicide attempts is probably nothing more than a ploy for attention. If she were...