It's the Pictures That Got Small - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


American Amazon:

Canadian Amazon:

Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lisa and I watched SUNSET BOULEVARD again. I was struck by how permeated the movie is by voiceover. And not, by modern standards, necessary voice over. I can't think of a line of the voiceover that tells you something you can't see. The voiceover tells you the narrator parked in a parking lot as we see him driving off a parking lot. The voiceover tells you there's a faded tennis court as we're looking at a faded tennis court. The voiceover tells you Norma Desmond is lost in her fantasy world as she is clearly lost in her fantasy world.

I guess the movie was so advanced in its noirishness that Wilder, or perhaps the studio, felt the audience of 1950 wouldn't get it if they didn't have it narrated to them.

It's also striking how Wilder hired film legend to play film legends: faded superstar Gloria Swanson to play a faded superstar; former director Erich von Stroheim to play a former director; Buster Keaton as a visiting movie star of long ago. I wonder what they thought when they got the call?

... Probably: "a job! Yes!"

5 Comments:

I haven't watched the movie in quite awhile. (Although on my blog I just quoted the line about audiences thinking that the actors made the dialogue up as they went along).
But I thought it was a very deliberate choice to have the dead guy narrating his own story all the way through. Something very creepy about that, yet at the same time it ties us to the dead guy in a specific way.

Man, the whole movie really is creepy - that suffocating house - you can almost breathe the stuffy, musty air.

And another example of a film that wouldn't work nearly as well in color.

By Blogger amyp3, at 11:39 PM  

Actually, reminds me of Dickens "Great Expectations" - Pip the narrator, Miss Havesham living in the creepy house, and Pip's completely false idea about his life - as much a great reveal as that of the narrator as dead body - also a tip of the hat to Agatha Christie's Roger Ackroyd.

By Blogger deborah Nathan, at 9:14 AM  

While it's true that the VO doesn't tell us anything we can't see for ourselves, I don't think it's just a matter of Wilder underestimating his audience. I would argue that the VO serves a few important purposes in the movie watcher's experience:

(1) The VO takes the noir convention of the death row narrator one step further to beyond the grave. It's the sign of a top-drawer auteur to take a convention and give it one extra twist.

(2) The VO provides a great form of misdirection to help the movie build up to a surprise ending. That is, in the case of Sunset Boulevard it's more important what the VO doesn't tell you.

(3) The VO leads to a surprise ending that forces the movie watcher to reconsider what s/he has just seen/heard and reveals that s/he has been listening to/watching a dead man's tale. This contributes to the overall creepiness of the film, but also plays into the film's thematic exploration of the living dead, examples of which abound in the film, such as Norma Desmond, who is physically alive long after her career is dead, and Max the butler, who is a kind of ghost-husband stuck in a painful afterlife of servitude.

By Blogger Kendo, at 2:51 PM  

The older I get, the more I appreciate Billy Wilder. I love the range of his talent and the way he can handle so many different genres gracefully. Also, as a former writer himself, he never derides how hard writing is. I find it interesting that he often wrote with a partner. Yes, I know, because as a foreigner he may have considered he came up short when it came to American speech. But I also think that in some way he understood how HARD story is and how bouncing ideas off someone else can help the writing process.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 11:05 AM  

START the picture with the actual street sign: SUNSET BOULEVARD, stencilled on a curbstope. In the gutter lie dead leaves, scraps of paper, burnt matches and cigarette butts. It is early morning.

Now the CAMERA leaves the sign and MOVES EAST, the grey asphalt of the street filling the screen. As speed accelerates to around 40 m.p.h., traffic de-marcations, white arrows, speed-limit warnings, man-hole covers, etc., flash by. SUPERIMPOSED on all this are the CREDIT TITLES, in the stencilled style of the street sign.

Over the scene we now hear

MAN'S VOICE
Yes, this is Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. It's about five o'clock in the morning. That's the Homicide Squad, the cars complete with detectives and newspaper men. A murder has been reported from one of those great big houses in the ten thousand block. You'll read all about it in the late editions, I'm sure. You'll get it over your radio, and it on television -- because an old-time star is involved. One of the biggest. But before you hear it all distorted and blown out of proportion, before those Hollywood columnists get their hands on it, maybe you'd like to hear the facts, the whole truth...
------------------------------------

I think this voiceover has less to do with the content of what is being said and more to do with the tone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbEMob_ht2A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF2mGIbxX-Y&feature=related

It's mimicking newsreels of the era.

What makes it unique, interesting, and ultimately compelling is that in the next section of voiceover, it's the dead guy we see in the pool narrating -- and not some newsreel footage.

If you look at the script -- it backs this claim. It's written split column with the V.O. over alongside the images. It's very intentional.

By Blogger James, at 4:08 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.