The Apartment (1960)

“The Apartment” (1960)

IMDb

modern times

It’s worth watching what Billy Wilder did, no matter what it is, or under which circumstances he did it. That’s because he always tried to contour the adversities, even if, in the end, that shows shaped with irony and criticism to his patrons, using the possibilities they give. That’s what he does here. The results aren’t so much impressive, maybe because he mixes different worlds. He basically has a romance to tell, that’s why he was hired, in order to produce the romantic comedy the way he was expected, beginning of the 60′ but done in the 50’s fashion. But in fact, he is anguished because he feels attached and dependent of a system of film production that doesn’t allow him to express freely his concerns, his themes, his own ways. He would have the last refusal late in his life, when Spielberg wouldn’t let him direct Schindler’s list. That’s why i feel his Stalag 17 must probably be a quite personal project for Wilder, one i’ll look forward to see, soon. In this process of fighting for his own expression, he created a masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard, and the less interesting Ace in the Hole. The noir served perfectly his intentions to fold his inner feelings without shouting them, and still allowing him to make the film he’d been asked to do.

Here, this didn’t work that much. Since he was working with the romance, he replaced the noir environment for sex. So we have a character immersed in a modern world of exploitation, where he is told what to do, has his life sabotaged by the interests of (many) superiors. This is a world Chaplin had created in Modern Times, but here he replaces the fantastically choreographed machinery of the factory for sex. The apartment is a meeting point, sex drives what happens here, all of it. So, a man caught up by a system who has to work his ways to gain his freedom of decision. Get it?

Jack Lemmon is a bliss, i really enjoy his non explosive, yet intense, comedy style. He has a way to move, to walk, that strenghtens his character, and in this particular case, makes him likable and easy to believe to be a pawn in the oppressive corrupt world. He’s something of a tramp here. This is not innocent. The tramp may be one the more metaphorical characters in cinema, and he always portrays things we don’t get on screen. Shirley MacLaine fits well, her face isn’t as enigmatic and intense as that of the Hepburns, but she moves more enthusiastically.

After so many years, i think what holds this film watchable are the performances. By now i don’t have Wilder’s context, and i’m way too far from the audiences who praised this in its time. And the whole machinery of sex seems like a line totally apart from the romance we get to follow, it’s not merged properly, i think. Nevertheless there is a tenderness in the interpretations, and a nostalgia i take to the film as i start to watch it, not because i lived those days, but because i got to see what was made of these performers, Lemmon and MacLaine. Nostalgia is a powerful ingredient.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb

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