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The Apartment: A re-release theatrical review

Submitted by on July 8, 2008 – 4:00 pm2 Comments

A slight change of pace follows the norm with the newly-restored theatrical re-release of The Apartment. This movie (made in 1960) stars Jack Lemmon and . The thing to get out of the way is the fact that this movie is black and white. Okay. So you don’t like films that are free from Technicolor. That’s such a shame as the detailing and planning involved with making a black and white movie is extensive. Just think of Hitchcock using brown sauce for blood in his master movie: Psycho. Tomato sauce, he said did not come up very well on screen. It is a shame then that most black and white films are grainy (due to age). It is a shame very few people get to appreciate these films how they were supposed to look.

With this in mind comes The Apartment. A Billy (Some like it Hot) Wilder production that was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 5 of them (including Best Picture). In fact it was the last black and white movie to win Best Picture until Schindler’s List came along in 1993. So it must be a fairly decent movie then. In fact, a quick search on IMDB brings up a user rating of 8.4 out of 10 (23,340 votes counted). It is strange then, that despite knowing something of Some Like it Hot, I have never heard of the film before this date. If it was considered this good, then why is it not spoken about as much? Well, I vowed to watch the movie and discover why.

The first thing to notice in the movie is how “newly-restored” it is. Obviously, due to the fact that I never saw the original version (far too young) it is difficult to make a comparison. What I can tell you is that despite only a few visible grains the film looks stunning. I don’t like using words so emotive (just ask any I’ve ever had). Its tones and vibrancy equals some quite stunning modern equivalents (such as Angel-A). This is a difficult feat in itself as it seems that most scenes (if not all) were filmed in a studio. On so many you are told that a movie has been “lovingly restored” and you sit there trying to figure out what five minute section has been tweaked. Not so with this movie. The fact is it is a pleasure to look at. Looking at it, you have to appreciate how hair colour, skin tone and clothing (amongst a plethora of other items) have to be compared on film and ensured that none of them clash (but contrast with each other).

The premise of the movie is played out fairly quickly with Jack Lemmon’s character speaking in a factual, fun and informative manner about his life to date. What is not spoken about and what occurs soon enough is the realisation that he lends his apartment out to his superiors (with the hope that promotion will come his way soon enough). His superiors use it to “entertain” their female interests. Well that’s new to me! I’ve heard of sleeping your way to the top, but not letting other people sleep you to the top. Now bear in mind that this movie is 1960. Calling it risqué is an understatement for the year (supposedly). You have blatant references to sexual conduct throughout the movie. Perhaps this is why it is considered a cult classic. As you go through the movie, you realise that it could be remade (almost word for word) today. That says a great deal about a film that is able to do this. Indeed, there is something very modern about it with Lemmon’s “remote control” television and his “quick-to-cook” dinner (reminiscent of a microwave). For someone born 15 years after the production of this film, I felt comfortable watching it as if I had slipped on a pair of old comfy shoes after losing them long ago.

Problems occur for Lemmon when he realises that his main boss is “entertaining” his love interest (Shirley MacLaine – with a suitably masculine haircut). Unfortunately the boss (well played by Fred MacMurray) is a bit of a cad (old English language usage ahoy) and regularly wines, dines and does unstated events with them. After realising this, MacLaine on Christmas Eve shocks the viewer whilst Lemmon dances (without arms) in a scene starring Hope Holiday that is hilarious. That’s the point though. Jack Lemmon’s character gets depressed but still lends some quite brilliant with Ms Holiday. MacLaine plays “dark” so very well, taking you to places unheard of in movie of this year and the whole piece is wrapped up in a satirical view of New York City on the cusp of the 60’s.

After giving my previous statement some thought (the line about this movie could be made again), perhaps not all would fit in quite so well. In fact, Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter is the equivalent of a modern day stalker and yet is considered romantic. What is that about? If I said to a woman, I know your age, where you live, where you were grown up and what you did before the job you are in, I would be pepper sprayed before you know it. Lemmon tells MacLaine these details and she is flattered!

All in all, this movie is nothing of what I had expected. For years my mother has insisted that in “her day”, they were all very innocent and no seediness occurred. It has become clear to me that she completely lied and I’m off to give her grief about it. The truth is this film bridges a gap for a new generation who need reminding that they are not so very different from their parents or grandparents and that, love, sex, innuendo, laughter and despair were not invented by us (the “younger generation”) after all. I for one am glad to have seen it and urge those who have the guts to do the same. Okay, so the Black and White issue will put some of you off (don’t let it. The usage of monotone is excellent). Okay, so you may think that this is another with innocent children running around singing about kettles and sunshine (it doesn’t. Stop making excuses). This is far from a children’s film. In fact, I would have loved to have known the original rating of the movie. I could only imagine it was an “X”, but today it holds a PG.

Have a look at the Park Circus website to check if the theatrical re-release of The Apartment is near you. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (A movie that challenges the norms of the time and bridges your generation with that of your embarrassing elders – we are all the same after all)

Tell me your opinions of this classic film. Have you ever seen it? Is it one of your favourites or simply overrated?

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