Unfortunately, I kind of agree with Mark down below. I enjoyed this film, the dialogue particularly - but I largely feel that this hasn't aged well. Don't get me wrong, I think it will always an enjoyable watch; but is this really that significant a film today, thematically? It wasn't necessarily head and shoulders above other noirs - and certainly not one of the greatest American films of all time in my opinion.
Go figure, fifty years on, the film itself starts behaving like Norma Desmond: confident of its importance, its beauty, its fan base (now mostly fogeys and film-school wastrels). But really, it has aged horribly, and offers us nothing in 2007: Hollywood "dark side" scab-picking (circa anytime, but especially 1949) ain't exactly eternal, and Billy Wilder's misanthropy is most wearisome here.
One of the most finely written movie I've ever seen, but I don't really think the voice-over was of any use, because it was doing nothing else to say with words what we could already see with images. The few moments without the voice-over are pure moments of cinematic grace. Gloria Swanson plays one of the most scary femme fatale characters I've seen (along with Better Davis or Joan Crawford). Incredible ending.
Four stars and I'm not quite sure why I'm giving that many. It's good, don't get me wrong, but there were times when I was looking at my clock and wondering when it might end. Probably, the stellar performance of Gloria Swanson, kept me interested throughout - she's awesome. My favorite scene is where she is entertaining William Holden and does her Charlie Chaplin impression. It's definitely worth a look.
Amazing how there's no definitive position in this film. Who is the bad guy? Who knows! People are always people, reigned by ambition, pride, passion, fear, kindness, pity, love. Each character shows this precisely. Billy Wilder's geniality is expressed through his actors, his images and his amazing soundtrack, which goes perfectly with the psychological thriller. Simply beautiful.
The most perversely original take on the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST story. Holden is the fair maiden, who thinks his cynicism will keep him safe. It renders him, instead, innocent. He fails to grasp the danger of the beast's derangement. Maybe, Norma Desmond, is in fact, Norma Bates - mother of Norman. Wilder's film has the kind of charisma, felt only in those rare works, that seem to have been with us, always.