I went to see Billy Wilder’s 1960 classic The Apartment the other day. It’s a film I’d seen a fair amount of times before and I do own it on DVD…somewhat bizarrely, it’s an official Chinese release that I once found on the streets of London. Anyway, I’d never had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen and sometimes you just need a specific time slot, such as the one offered by a cinema listing, as an incentive to actually watch something. It’s like when a film is on television. You own it on DVD and could watch it whenever, but it’s just not the same as watching it and moan about the ad-breaks. At home, I would be more likely to pick something out of that ever-growing backlog of women-in-prison movies or just watch random youtube clips. So, The Apartment it was and man, am I glad I went. Despite knowing the film inside-out already and as trite as the saying is – they just don’t make’em like that anymore. There’s nothing about this film that doesn’t make me smile from ear to ear. From the neverending rows of typewriters in the offices of Consolidated Life to the gin rummy, via the amazing dancing at the Christmas party (did people really do that in the 50s?) and the elevator “drivers” (From now on I will be taking the stairs everywhere until this position makes a comeback). Oh and of course, the straining of spaghetti with the tennis rackets. Etc etc.
C.C. Baxter: The mirror… it’s broken.
Fran Kubelik: Yes, I know. I like it that way. Makes me look the way I feel.
The script is full of killer lines like that and the whole thing is just a pleasure to watch. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine shine in their roles as the hapless, career-focused pushover C. C. Baxter and his dream elevator driver girl, the melancholic yet ever-so charming Miss Kubelik.
So, everyone is getting it on in Baxter’s apartment, except for him that is. Unfortunately, news has gotten out amongst his superiors at the office that he has a conveniently located bachelor pad and they are keen to make full use of it, for post-work drunken infidelities. Baxter, eager-to-please as he is, keeps succumbing to their requests and dreaming of that rise to the top of the career ladder he stocks the fridge with liqueur and tidies up their mess. When the promotion eventually comes, his problems remain. He’s had his eyes on Miss Kubelik, a cute-as-a-button elevator driver, for a long time. She’s been having an affair Mr Sheldrake, the big boss himself, and when that goes completely pear shaped, she tries to kill herself in Baxter’s flat. He’s left to nurse her back to health and falls deeper and deeper in love. Will she fall for him? Are they going to live happily ever after?
The Apartment is sad, funny, sweet, romantic, heart-warming and endlessly charming…just perfect film to shake off the winter blues with.