The Apartment. Yes, the Apartment. I think it’s a wonderful comedy. Others think it’s a wonderful tragedy. One student said that if I had just told her the plot she would have thought it was a tragedy, but after watching it she said it was a comedy. Billy Wilder’s film won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. It was inspired by another film. A film that Wilder saw and didn’t like. After viewing David Lean’s film “A Brief Affair”, Wilder was bored and disinterested in the main characters of that movie. Brief Encounter is about two people who meet at a train station and after weeks of innocent encounters they consider having an affair. The man in the couple borrows ‘ for the afternoon tryst. Wilder found the whole exercise boring and was more interested in the unseen friend who lends out his apartment and has to sleep on the same bed others have “borrowed” earlier that day.
So, The Apartment was born. It tells the story of a New York bachelor who is in love with an elevator operator at his office building. His life is complicated by his bosses who are continuously borrowing his apartment for illicit rendezvous. It is a beautifully shot film and wonderfully acted. You should see it if you never have.
One thing I like about Wilder is how he can reference the culture of his day without being pop culture dependent. His movies stand the test of time because they can exist in a time, acknowledge that time but not be dependent on it for their humor. He also references his own work. In this movie there is mention of two characters having a Lost Weekend. The sign for Seven Year Itch is seen and that was to be Wilder’s next project. Wilder’s characters are as honest and believable today as they were in 1960. If you disagree, I encourage you to meet more people. There are Buds, Frans, and Sheldrakes all over this great land. This is truly one of my favorite films.