If the finest things in life are written on an empty stomach, as an agent claims here, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett must have been ravenous when they penned "Sunset Boulevard".
Not so much biting the hand that fed them as devouring both arms, their gothic melodrama remains the bitterest attack ever launched on Hollywood.
Wilder finished the 50s by writing the funniest final line ever (in "Some Like it Hot"). And he started it here with one of the most audacious set-ups: a flashback movie narrated by a corpse. That's right, dead man talking.
The corpse in question is struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden). Needing to lie low for a while, he chances upon a run-down mansion on Sunset Blvd.
The creepy residence is home to just two people: faded movie star Norma Desmond (the hypnotic Gloria Swanson), and devoted manservant Max (Erich von Stroheim, who'd pass for miserable if he lightened up a little).
Desmond is planning an unlikely movie comeback, and wants Cecil B DeMille to direct her hapless version of "Salome".
Eyeing an easy buck, Joe offers his writing services to the deluded one-time great. She covets more than just his editing skills, however...
"Sunset Boulevard" is both a savage indictment of the star system (and the monsters it produces), and an all-too-knowing depiction of a writer's impotence in Hollywood - the more Gillis takes from Desmond, the more emasculated and powerless he becomes.
Classic scene unspools after classic scene (tick off those priceless one-liners), with the most chilling moment arriving when Wilder pans past hundreds of photos of Desmond - Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il could learn something about iconography from this woman.
Now re-released in a new print, get ready for your close-up with the finest movie ever made about the narcissistic hellhole that is Hollywood.