Basti’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sunset Boulevard is a great film. It is about filmmaking and the struggles that silent filmstars had to go through in Hollywood at that time. It shows what fame can do to people and does so in a brilliant way with a perfect ending. Billy Wilder and the other writers bring an almost perfect screenplay to the table. But within that 'almost' lays my biggest (and only) problem with this film. The voice-over.
Normally, I disagree with people, when they say that voice-overs are a sense of lazy filmmaking, mentioning 'show, don't tell!'. I think telling things through dialogue or a voice-over can be very effective, if it isn't redundant. Let's take the voice-over in 'Goodfellas', for example. It is a great example that this technique can be used in a great way. It tells the audience important things about our main character and what he thinks, as well as leads the audience through the big jumps in time throughout the film. The voice-over is almost necessary in this case.
And I'm not saying that it was completely unnecessary here, especially in the beginning and end of the movie, but for the most part, it was.
It would just tell what is shown simultaneously with the perfect and subtextual directing.
For example: He says something like:"I couldn't think about it until I got to this prison of mine" (not the right quote
The word 'prison', that reflects how he feels about Norma's house is important). When he says that, the film shows him, going through the front door, that is made out of bars, highlighted by the light coming from behind the door, creating big shadows of the bars on the floor. This is a very obvious symbolism that almost can't be overlooked and would have worked better, without somebody telling us into our faces.
And, just to give an example for one moment, where the technique was completely unnecessary:
When he first looks out of the window in the first night he spends at Norma's house, he looks at a tennis court that looks very run down and broken down or into an empty pool with rats in it. Very trivial things to tell us more about her character. Things that definetly do not need more explanation, but we still get the explanation. And it is like that in many parts of the movie.
Now once again. I loved this film. I just chose to write about my one problem with it, because everything positive about it has already been said thousands of times. The commentary on Hollywood, the story, the acting and especially the directing is incredible. I look forward to seeing more from Wilder.