24 May 2001 | Katmiss
WILDER'S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
Billy Wilder's "The Apartment is his greatest accomplishment. It is his most successful melding of comedy and drama that he never quite pulled off again. I'm glad the Academy had enough good taste to award Wilder The Triple Crown: Best Picture/Director/Screenplay. But they still had enough bad taste to deny Jack Lemmon a Best Actor award, Shirley MacLaine a Best Actress award and Fred MacMurray a nomination and award.
The plot this time: C.C. Baxter (Lemmon; in case you're wondering: "C for Calvin C for Clifford, but most people call me "Bud")lends out his apartment to executives for their extramarital trysts in the faint hope of a promotion. Eventually, his boss, Sheldrake (MacMurray, excellent in a rare straight role) finds out and wants the key for his own affairs. Meanwhile, Baxter has a crush on Miss Kubelik (MacLaine, in a strong performance)the elevator operator.
For those who accuse me of spoiling the whole movie: rest assured. This only covers the first 20 minutes or so of the 126 minute feature. Wilder has many twists and tricks up his sleeve and I'll leave you to discover what happens. What amazes me about "The Apartment" is that unlike most films, this isn't about the plot. It's a study in human nature and the mistakes they make. That is a strong trait of most Wilder films (including "Kiss Me, Stupid" and "The Fortune Cookie", both hilarious comedies with a hidden meaning)
Also the dialogue by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond isn't just one-liners (although they are funny; especially when spoken by Lemmon and Ray Walston)There is real heartfelt sentiment here and it isn't the syrupy kind that makes my stomach churn (as in films like "Patch Adams") Wilder allows enough to make his points and then gets back to comedy.
The cinematography is fabulous too. Wilder's film (as most of his 60s films) is in widescreen Black and White (shot by Joseph LaShelle, in Panavision; one of the most unsung and unrecognized cinematographers in history, he was nominated but lost) It has a crisp,clean look and is one of the few widescreen films that actually make the viewer feel confined in a tight space.
"The Apartment" is a superior example of the "serious comedy", films that work as both comedy and drama. Sadly, many of today's filmmakers have lost touch with this genre. I can't help but feel that the freedoms granted today that weren't in the 1950s and 60s haven't been an advance. They've been holding us back. Smart characters have lost way to stupid and oversexed ones. That's a real shame and it's high time we go back to our roots.
**** out of 4 stars