****/**** Image A Sound A Extras A
starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson
screenplay by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.
directed by Billy Wilder
by Walter Chaw Billy Wilder's protagonists are interlopers, outsiders itching for acceptance in insular societies recognized as decadent but possessed of an irresistible allure for Wilder's central characters--a lure that most often takes the form of sex, status, and money. Always self-aware and basically noble, Wilder's comedies have his heroes confessing their sins and renouncing said corrupt society in favour of an appropriate love pairing (Fran and Baxter of The Apartment); in his tragedies, his heroes confess their sins as a last decent act undertaken too late. (Think Walter Neff of Double Indemnity.) The connection between The Apartment (arguably Wilder's best film) and Sunset Blvd. (the film with which The Apartment has its argument) begins, fascinatingly, with pivotal scenes set on New Year's Eve. In The Apartment, of course, Fran makes her decision to be with Baxter on New Year's, while Joe Gillis decides to be with Norma Desmond that same hallowed night in Sunset Blvd.--and both moments, as they occur at the crux of historical and cultural demarcations, encompass Wilder's flair for emotions at crosscurrent, and the dark of a dying era with the light of possible futures.