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The Apartment

Directed by Billy Wilder

USA, 1960

Cornerhouse, 30 September 2012

The Apartment

I would put this Wilder film, a comedy all about how a shnuck becomes a mensch, personal development-wise, on a par with Some Like It Hot.

During it, Baxter (Jack Lemmon) falls in love – another person becomes real for him – and that is the catalyst: he changes overnight from one who is pushed around and put upon by the powerful to one who is free.  Between the two Baxters there’s an awful and anguished distance, a long and terrible way, a space you would not ever want to walk: and that is the film.  Did I mention that it’s a comedy?

Wilder’s horror at corporate America, all those skyscrapers with floor upon floor of offices, and on each floor row upon rows of desks, is one thing that strikes you: the influence of Lang’s Metropolis is clear.  His unerring eye for hypocrisy, in the guise of Fred MacMurray’s monstrous executive, is another.  Against this he sets open-hearted neighbours, a Jewish doctor and his wife, and the fierce bond of family: the New York taxi-driver who blackens Baxter’s eye.  Indeed, Baxter needed that cold blow as an urgent wake-up call.  That measured lesson opens his eyes.

Although Baxter gets the girl and they love each other, their future together is uncertain.  They may even wind up as beatniks – the baleful throwaway of the doctor’s wife proving prophetic.  (And what would have happened to Baxter if Allen Ginsberg had been his neighbour?)  Certainly, they’ll have no truck with the Kafkaesque corporate machine that we’ve seen.

The Apartment is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season, further details are here.