Sample Review on The Movie, “Sunset Boulevard”
The use of the term “genre” is not limited to movies. It is used in all forms of art to define different types of the art forms. Movies that belong to the same genre usually share some common characteristics, such as themes, style or narratives. From the audience’s perspective, categorizing movies by genre helps them decide more easily if the movie in question is something they would be interested in or not, based on their previous experience and preferences. However, a film cannot just belong to one genre.
Co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, “Sunset Boulevard”, is a narrative about an aging, forgotten star of silent films, Norma Desmond, and a young, penniless screenwriter, Joe Gillis, whom Desmond employs as her “script doctor” and ultimately her lover as well (Pryor). This is also a story about the dark side of the Hollywood, which is still relevant today.Speaking about genre, we can say that “Sunset Boulevard” is a drama, but at the same time, it also shows elements of black comedy. Drama might be one of the broadest film genres, as it includes many sub-genres, and it can cover a myriad of themes (Sikov 144). However, films that fall into the drama category are based on the development of realistic characters who are dealing with some real emotions and issues. The main character of “Sunset Boulevard”, Norma Desmond, is suicidal and delusional and she refuses to accept that her movie carrier is over. She lives in her own fantasy world, craving the attention and the admiration she once had. She falls in love with a man half her age, and eventually kills him because she cannot accept him leaving her. On the other side, we have Joe Gillis, opportunistic and cynical, who grabs the chance to earn some money by working for Desmond (Pryor). Even though he doesn’t love her, but pities her instead, he stays with her because she showers him with expensive gifts. Despite the fact that he tried to turn his life aroundand find happiness with Betty, a girl he fell in love with, his opportunism eventually cost him his life.The opening scene of the film shows a dead body of Joe Gillis floating in the swimming pool, which may also suggest that this movie belongs in the crime drama subgenre.The film also shows a lot of elements of black comedy. Black comedy is a subgenre of comedy which adopts a comedic,or rather satirical, approach to serious subjects such as death, insanity, disease, poverty, etc. (“Black Comedy”). In the first scene in which we encounter Norma Desmond, she is organizing a funeral for a chimp. Another example of black comedy is the final scene inthe film in which Norma Desmond is going down the stairs, surrounded by cameras and the press, believing that they are shooting a scene forher new movie.In reality, the police car is waiting in front of the house to take her away because she killed Joe Gillis.
In my opinion, even though “Sunset Boulevard” can be classified as both drama and black comedy, this movie belongs more in the drama category. The main subject of the film is a serious story, which ends with downfall of the main characters, brought on by their personal flaws. The elements of the black comedy are there to enhance the narrative. Their purpose is to intensify the dramatic effect of the movie, not to be at the forefront.
“Black Comedy.” n.d., tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackComedy. Accessed on 20 Mar. 2017.
Pryor, Thomas M., “Sunset Boulevard”, New York Times, August 11, 1950. www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=EE05E7DF1731E632E05752C1A96E9C946192D6CF. Accessed on 20 Mar. 2017.
Sikov, Ed. Film Studies: An Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
“Sunset Boulevard.” YouTube, uploaded by Karl Otto, 14 Jan. 2017. www.youtube.com/watch?v=l77KLoHn6kk.