Where to begin? It's simply one of the greatest movies ever made and perhaps the best movie made about Hollywood full stop.
William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erick Von Stroheim star with cameos from leading Hollywood lights Cecile B DeMille Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper and HB Warner.
It's as bitter a movie as you could see but that bitterness is tinged with sadness and loss, loss for a different time and place; the silent era when movie stars were gods and directors were all powerful. Swanson's Norma Desmond is superb as the delusional recluse basking in her former glory, Holden is the cynical writer who stumbles across a story that eventually ends with his life taken. Everything about this movie is excellent from the script which is sensational to the idea of a dead man narrating. It's power comes from the fact that the once great can become has beens in the dog eat dog world of Hollywood and that to enter into Norma's web is a stifling experience. Robert Aldrich's Whatever happened to Baby Jane is something of a copy of the themes, although not nearly as well written.
The director Billy Wilder, as initially an outsider, was able to cast an eye over tinsletown and draw his own conclusions as to it's morality. This is exemplified in Sunset Boulevard. Wilder made some of the best movies of all time so this was no one hit wonder (Double indemnity, The lost weekend, Some like it hot, Ace in the hole, the Apartment, witness for the prosecution) .
Having re read Keneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon as an entree and watched Paul Merton's excellent BBC documentary on the birth of Hollywood http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011k4vx for main course this is the perfect film to watch as a dessert. And of course, as was Wilder's way, it has one of the most memorable closing lines in cinema history. Bitter sweet indeed.