Monday, 17 June 2013

Old Movie Of The Week: The Apartment ( 1960 )

 "That's how it crumbles... cookie-wise."

C.C. Baxter ( Jack Lemmon ) is an insurance clerk, working for a large firm in New York, only one of thousands... as he helpfully tells us in this movie's opening voice-over. But C.C. is heading to the top: he soon becomes an executive with his own corner office and keys to the executive washroom. We soon come to realise he's not doing all this on merit alone. He has an "arrangement" with his bosses...

C.C. is renting out his apartment to his superiors so they can have affairs with their secretaries or one-night stands, while he walks the cold streets and naps on park benches, waiting for a chance to get a few hours sleep in his own bed... before going back to work. Juggling the complicated schedule of these office lotharios takes up all of C.C's time and effort, until he begins to fall for sparky elevator operator, Miss Kublick and dreams of a way out. But she has problems of her own...
The Apartment is a sparkling, witty and wise comedy/drama courtesy of the master, Billy Wilder. It has a wonderful script by the director and I.A.L Diamond  -  the team behind the previous year's all-time classic Some Like It Hot. ( In fact there's a lovely little reference to Marilyn in this movie, which might be a dig from the long-suffering film-makers at Ms. Monroe's legendary difficulties in the previous film. ) And, even though it's mostly studio-bound, there's plenty of crisp black and white photography and well-realised sets, from regimented offices to smoky bars.

Jack Lemmon gives a delightful performance here, pulling off the tricky role of a basically well-meaning man trapped in a seedy situation. His character benefits materially from renting out his apartment but realises that he is losing his credibility, reputation and privacy. It's a quietly satisfying moment when he finally tells his boss, Fred MacMurray to stick his job... in a polite way...
Shirley MacLaine is an actress I've never had a lot of time for... but in this movie she's a revelation. Chirpy and sweet on the surface, but with a real vulnerability underneath, she's especially good in her scenes with Fred MacMurray  -  when she realises that this ex-lover will never leave his wife and family for her, it's heart-breaking. I have to say she's also very cute... which is not something I expected to ever say about Ms. MacLaine.

I really enjoyed The Apartment. It veers from sophisticated, adult comedy to serious drama
( Miss Kublick's attempted suicide ) and back again without breaking a sweat. There's also room for Jack Lemmon to show his mastery of physical comedy: who ever knew that straining spaghetti through a tennis racquet was the mark of a good cook? Oh, and the movie has a killer final line...
"Shut up and deal..."

( I'm cheating slightly here, calling this Old Movie Of The Week. Sarah and I actually saw this eight days ago at Gloucester's Guildhall Arts Centre. With all the various goings on around these 'ere parts in the last week, this has been my first real chance to sit down and write a review. But it's not like I've seen any film to beat this over the past week... )

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