This is an unfolding experience; the fate is set, we know William Holden will die and his narration is otherworldly, from the afterlife presumably. So the challenge is always: can we care about a story whose results we already know? It's Shakespeare's witches on a beach, prophetic, moving in one direction. We only need one look at Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond - set in a rotting mansion amidst stacks of obsessively writing an epic screenplay that nobody will buy - to know that Holden is falling into a trap with a completely insane woman. I don't know enough movies to say whether or not this really stood out for it's time, exposing the inner world of Hollywood glamour and the hard hit for those who fall from it. But I can say that every beat of this film unfolds to my taste, and it's statement of Hollywood holds true to today. Holden's Joe Gillis is trapped in Dracula's castle, his meat tenderizing to her whims, her every need, and eventually her desire to have a man like him in her life. Here's a young, good-looking stud whose screenwriting career is failing, and out of desperation he allows himself to be taken by this old washup. We get a sense of both Gillis and Desmond's desperation playing off into their inevitable pitfall. Gillis could have a younger, attractive, successful woman like Barbara Schaefer, who is helping him recuperate his career with a screenplay that could actually land him a quality film. She is his only hope, his one way ticket out of hell into a better life. But he's in a bubble with her, dancing on the outskirts, seeing what could've been if his devlish functions weren't so manipulated by the more immediate lavish life Desmond provides. Wilder stages this with delicacy, but is not shy to allow over-the-top moments, particularly by Swanson giving us the ugliest side of fallen stardom one could imagine. From her facelift to her close-up moment after the murder, we get all we could hope to keep reserved in the belly of our deepest nightmares of lost minds and past-dwelling. I only wonder if this film feels very removed to those who don't know Hollywood lingo, which dialogue and narration provide an abundance of. It will also go over many heads the significance of featuring the legendary director Cecil B DeMille as himself, entertaining Desmond in a horrible tease that her screenplay has any promise, only to reveal the sad truth that he had no other way of handling her politely, and has no intention of making her movie. The narration is another great tool, providing the attitude and backdrop of being a screenwriter in Hollywood, not taking from the theatric experience of the story coming to life visually. Desmond's heartbreak is unsettling, unnerving, and an effective lesson about moving on in life.