Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Apartment

The Apartment – Billy Wilder – Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a well-meaning man that allows colleagues to stay in his apartment out of generosity. These favours gradually spiral out of control, until his tenancy is governed by the possibility of promotion and office politics. Amidst which there is the possibility of love and the subsequent decisions to be made between life and work. The high-rise ant nest of Baxter’s company is beautifully realised in a black and white panorama of desks and regimented lighting. We are introduced to a monochrome grid of tired faces, typing, endless calls and the tyranny of the office clock. It is from out of this anonymity that Baxter’s selflessly generous character becomes so immediately endearing. The film moves with the same witty ease and charm that Baxter initially exudes with such uncomplicated ease, however as the narrative progresses an unexpected undercurrent of tragedy and neurosis slips into play. The film grows into a sophisticated examination of the sublimated tensions festering between loneliness and success. All of the struggling concerns that a company policy of corruption invokes, the delusions its titles offer and the entrapment we feel, locked in lines and lines of others enrolled in the same daily grind; all of this is articulated through Wilder’s intelligent comedy. When Baxter can never be at home in his home, when his own tenancy is subject to the invasive exploitation of the workplace, and when connections in love are made to seem so fragile, everything seems perched between resounding vulnerability and the scattered lifelines of companionship – whether or not these lifelines are illusory, or fraught with deception is a matter of luck. All of which brings the unfinished game of cards between Baxter and Fran (Shirley Maclaine) into focus; when Baxter finally says he loves her, the response is not reciprocal affirmation but a private joke: ‘Shut up and deal!’ A line that at first seems like a wonderfully cheesy sign off, but that with reflection becomes more and more pertinent. 8/10

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