Thomas McCallum’s review published on Letterboxd:
Performances : 8.4/10
Story : 9.4/10
Production : 8.1
Overall : 8.63/10
Wow. I bought this on blu-ray even though I had only seen it once before and I didn't remember being overly impressed. Maybe I slept through parts of it because I don't know what I was thinking. Sunset Boulevard tells an amazing story of fame and it's effects while also beating living shit out of Hollywood with a bat. It's the definition of art imitating life, with Noma Desmond played by former silent era star Gloria Swanson. Herself not having had more than one role in almost twenty years before this film was made. Her butler/former director Max Von Mayerling (awesome name) played by Eric von Stroheim (even more awesome name), a man who once actually directed Gloria Swanson. Even Joe Gillis, the down on his luck writer that nobody wants a piece of was played by William Holden. At the time of filming Holden himself was down on his luck and wasn't even close to Billy Wilder's first choice for the part.
With all of these examples it's no wonder that the performances are wonderful and every major character feels so fleshed out and real. Without these strong performances the story could not have come off as well. Wilder starts at the end and brings us full circle using voice-over narration in the best way possible. He Juxtaposes our all-knowing narrator against a version of himself from four months prior who knows nothing of what is about to happen to him. He does these things knowing that the viewer knows just barely less than the narrator, it's an amazing creative choice that keeps us involved in the story. It's as if we're there.
Story aside, the entire production of the film is terrific. You can see that great thought and care is put into every shot. For example the opening scene, shot from the bottom of the pool, would have been much more simple to do above ground. Then again, it wouldn't have had the same impact. Wilder always makes an impact. The entire set design of Norma's house is so creepy and unsettling that it almost becomes a character in the film. The minimal lighting and always present shadows make it so it's almost impossible to tell if it's night or day. It's these small things that make this film the Noir classic that it is today.
So this is my confession. My first time through Sunset Boulevard I didn't love it. I didn't like The Maltese Falcon when I saw that either...maybe I should watch it again.