'Sunset Boulevard' remains a high point of Hollywood

November 13, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach

Hollywood is rarely guilty of introspection and even more rarely of critical introspection. One of the finest examples of the admittedly limited genre is a 1950 masterpiece that only gets better with repeated viewings.

"Sunset Boulevard" (8 p.m.-10 p.m., Cinemax) is, in order, a searing indictment of Hollywood shallowness and decay; a bravura performance by a silent movie actress who used the occasion to remind everyone what a great actress she was; and a haunting film that gets under the skin like few others.

Gloria Swanson is Norma Desmond, a forgotten star of silent films who, in her mind, is as famous and in-demand as ever. William Holden is the unwitting suitor who first fans her fantasies, then extinguishes them, and Erich Von Stroheim is her unnaturally loyal butler, Max.

Swanson's performance as the vainglorious, and more than a touch demented, Desmond is a wonder even more so when one realizes that she hadn't starred in a film in more than two decades. Watch, and be impressed.

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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