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THE APPARTMENT

Director: BILLY WILDER

U.S.A. • 1960 • BLACK AND WHITE • ANAMORPHIC • 125 MIN


BILLY WILDER’S 1960 MASTERPIECE IS RE-RELEASED IN A NEW PRINT.
‘I always had it in mind,’ said Wilder, ‘that trevor howard’s friend in Brief Encounter, whose flat howard uses for his affair with Celia Johnson, would make a very interesting character.’ This curious intuition eventually matured into The Apartment, where a junior clerk, C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), innocently lends his Manhattan apartment to a friend for an evening and then finds his superiors promising promotion if they can use it for extra-marital hi-jinks. Office opportunism takes a sinister turn when he finds this dubious route to the top is linked with abetting his boss’ affair with an elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) whom Baxter secretly adores.
Rounding on the interviewers from Cinema magazine who thought the film sentimental, Wilder retorted: ‘it was made so as not to be sentimental. i portray Americans as beasts.’ This is the most daring film of hollywood’s finest satirist, a study of urban loneliness and corporate concupiscence that walks a tightrope between comedy and tragedy. The revels of a Christmas party shriek discordantly against shattering personal revelations; an attempted suicide is only a room away from fun and laughter; and the hero’s dawning humanity is ruthlessly accompanied by his social fall. the precision of its narrative structure and widescreen composition is a thing of wonder, and the performances of Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray are pitch-perfect. Trenchant yet tender, poignant yet popular, and winner of five Oscars to boot (including best picture, director and screenplay), The Apartment was the highpoint of Wilder’s wonderful career. Time has only confirmed its greatness.—Neil Sinyard.
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