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“Dark Film” and Sunset Blvd.

Film noir, by translation alone, means dark film, and by that measurement Sunset Boulevard certainly fits the genre. A gloomy story that follows a jaded and sarcastic protagonist, Joe Gillis from his initial dire circumstances to his untimely death, Sunset Blvd. earns the description “dark” several times over. But there is more to film noir than crushingly depressing plotlines. There are common motifs and icons that are found in most film noirs, such as crime, dark alleys, guns and alcohol. Deeper than this, film noir features certain visual elements, character archetypes, and themes that create a unique style of film. Although some have argued that Sunset Blvd. fails to represent some of these elements, it has become known as one of the most iconic film noirs ever made. Sunset Boulevard (1950), written and directed by Billy Wilder exemplifies the film noir style through its use of visual elements (lighting, shots and angles), memorable characters, themes and overall structure of the film.

First and foremost, film noir refers to the visual style of a picture. The imagery of film noir was influenced by early 20th century German expressionism, featuring distorted, sinister shapes and shadows. These precursors to film noir used abstract figures and looming shadows for bizarre, emotionally stirring results. Techniques such as chiaroscuro were used to give a dark and minimalistic feeling. In many cases lighting is limited to a single harsh light source, which obscures the image, and even throws shadows across actors’ faces. These elements ensure that an audience regards the actors and the setting with equal importance. Oblique angled shots permeate many film noirs, naturally provoking anxiousness and apprehension in the viewer. In Sun...

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...ol, and he ended up floating face down in one. Norma’s fame ultimately proved to be the cause of her insanity.

The noir style is showcased in Sunset Boulevard with its use of visually dark and uncomfortable settings and camera work, as well as its use of the traditional film noir characters. In addition, the overall tone and themes expressed in it tightly correspond to what many film noirs addressed. What made this film unique was its harsh criticism of the film industry itself, which some of Wilder’s peers saw as biting the hand that fed him. There is frequent commentary on the superficial state of Hollywood and its indifference to suffering, which is still a topic avoided by many in the film business today. However, Sunset Blvd. set a precedent for future film noirs, and is an inspiration for those who do not quite believe what they are being shown by Hollywood.

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