Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, You Mean That "Apartment"

Mrs. Buce's Netflix queue last night churned up Billy Wilder's The Apartment. I had never seen it before; I remember my friends talking about it but I had just started the repair of my life via night school and I wasn't doing many movies. 

But maybe I need(ed) a better class of friends.  I was always under the impression that it was a comedy. Seeing it last night, I guess I can see what Dave Thompson means (in Have You Seen...) when he says that Wilder "seems to have felt the need to reestablish himself as the surveyor of a cold and heartless world."

Point taken; but perhaps we have become more cold and heartless in general, because at the end of the day, you come away still thinking it is a comedy.  I tend to link it generally with so many other films in what you might call the "Apartment 3G" genre: enterprising youngsters having wacky adventures in the big city.  Cf., My Sister Eileen, or Wonderful Town.  You want edgy, you have to move forward to The Landlord.  You want really edgy, you go on to Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

Still, I guess what struck me most about The Apartment was the whole milieu thing.  Here's a place where our hero works in a Chairman-Mao-style bullpen of clerks, where he makes $94 week--and pays $85 a month for an apartment at 51 West 67th.  I mean--actually, I suppose that address is underneath Lincoln Center today, but these days it would be available on an investment banker budget.  And the cab up from 61st Street costs 70 cents.

Bottom line: the film is a great argument for legislation against wrongful dismissal.  And do you suppose by chance the Shirley McLain who plays the winsome elevator operator here is any kin to the Shirley McLain who played the sharp-tongued old harridan in Terms of Endearment?   

1 comment:

The New York Crank said...

One day, back in 1967, my immediate supervisor at an ad agency said, "I'm taking you to lunch, but somebody needs to borrow your apartment keys during the lunch hour."

"Who?" I asked.

"I can't tell you."

"I don't want to do this," I said.

"If you want to keep working here, you don't have a choice."

"This is a joke, right?" I asked. "I mean, I've seen that movie with Jack Lemmon."

"This is not a joke."

Well I did get lunch. And whoever had borrowed my keys returned them via my supervisor right after lunch. And when I came home that night, there was most of a pinch bottle of Haig and Haig Scotch waiting for me in my kitchen.

This went on for about three months.

In the end, I could have gone into the scotch business. And I never did find out who was using my apartment.