This year I've decided to really dig into story and have kicked it off by reading the script for Film Noire classic, Sunset Blvd. Then I watched the film. Here's a few things that I learned!
Film: Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Logline: A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. - imdb.com
Authors: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D.M. Marshman Jr.
Things I learned from the Script:
Sunset Blvd. belongs to the Film Noir genre, so it has a lot of neat narrative dialogue, among other things. I noticed that the style of the script changed whenever Gillis narrated his thoughts.
It splits like the image below:
So that was neat. The whole script had this eerie tone to it, which translated extremely well into the film. Usually the film deviates somewhat from the script, but this one stayed pretty much close to the written word.
And because I'm a newbie to scripts and storyboarding, technical words like FADE IN and FADE OUT were new. I was amazed at the amount of detail in the descriptions and the movie stuck pretty close to it.
Things I learned from the film:
Death imagery is everywhere. From the moment Joe Gillis (the main character) steps foot into the mansion. It's SO creepy. I mean, I'm not into Film Noir or dark humor, but the amount of subtle but glaring YOU'RE-GOING-TO-DIE imagery here. For example. This.
This is the moment I would have hi-tailed it out of there. So much NOPE in one picture. The candles, the mirror, the dark glasses, the almost-chiaroscuro lighting. Yup. I started losing my mind right here.
Another thing I noticed was that every time Gillis had an internal dialogue, the camera would, very slowly, zoom in on him. I think this must have built sympathy or tension for the character. Maybe that's why they did it.
I did storyboard studies of this film. It's enlightening to see just how amazing the compositions are! I would post them here, but my scanner isn't big enough.
One of my favorite things about this movie is the layered lines of dialogue. There's a painful scene where Norma Desmond is greeted by fans & is having a rather touching moment with them when the director gruffly says "Get that light back to where it belongs!" and my heart just breaks for poor Norma. (Then she goes nutso crazy after that, which isn't cool, but it's understood why she does that).
Another line I adore is in the very beginning when Gillis is talking to his agent, who tells him that once he hits a "Romanoff rut", he's through! This is great because I think it plays right into the theme of survival in Hollywood. It's about creating new, invigorating stories and not rehashing something that wasn't all that great to begin with (also a line from the movie). I love the way they set that up.
There's so much in this film, I've heard people do dissertations on it in college, so I'll probably watch it at least three more times and take more notes. It deserves another blog post. Maybe after I've studied more into cinema?
Coming up this next week though, I'm studying Alien. Which I am absolutely terrified of. That's one thing I'm trying to do this year - do things that I'm terrified of doing. If I can make it through Alien, I can probably make it through anything. I'm looking forward to writing about it next week!