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Greenberg and Other Character Studies
Posted March 08, 2010 to photo album "Greenberg and Other Character Studies"
Noah Baumbach’s comedy Greenberg probes the psyche of a man in search of himself. We consider other films that study character.
Slide 3: Sunset Boulevard - Character as reflection
The psyche of the movie star is undoubtedly one of the most slippery forms of character study that a filmmaker can tackle. For one, any study of an actor will undoubtedly suggest a real one. But more, actors by definition play characters, and so it is always hard to divine where the real ends and make believe begins. As such Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard still remains one of the most mesmerizing and terrifying studies of character. Early on, Wilder explained his interest in the story: “We weren’t particular interested in doing a Hollywood story. What appealed to us was the comeback story—which is much more moving that the success story—plus the tragedy of the aging woman.” The mix of hope and death, of fantasy and fatality, gives the film its Grand Guignol atmosphere. As aspiring screenwriter William Holden moves deeper into the world of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), the more he is enveloped by her insanity. As a faded screen goddess living in the glory of her stardom, Desmond has erased the difference between the present and the past, the real and the fantasy. A police arrest with flashing press cameras and crowds pressing in to catch a peek becomes in the mind the same as an opening night premiere.