Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Sunset Blvd. (1950), directed by Billy Wilder.

A tale told by a dead man: a sarcastic writer, down on his luck and trying to escape the repo men, finds refuge in the rich, weird mansion of a nearly forgotten silent film star. Cynically, he devises a cunning plan to extract money from her by helping with her terrible comeback script ("Salome -- what a woman!") but the joke is on him. He can't get away and devolves into her boy-toy.

It begins as a dark comedy by a director who had notoriously bitter feelings about Hollywood. It becomes more serious, but as it turns out the romance plot is the smallest part. This is a film-lover's tale of the movies, with many striking contrasts, parallels and juxtapositions:

Once you've seen the film and learn a certain plot twist, you find yourself watching Erich von Stroheim's tragic expressions more closely.

It's all self-referentially dizzying, with some moments of even greater magic:

Franz Waxman score, Edith Head costumes.

Available on Blu-ray. Ed Sikov provides an insightful commentary track: