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The Apartment (1960)
Director: Billy Wilder
Country: United States
Runtime: 125 mins
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

I just love noir films because of its poignant visual style: a minimalistic black and white approach, characterization, dialogue systems incorporated with dark elements which are evocative of the genre and have indisputably brilliant detective themes. I got introduced to noir via Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) which is simply an outstanding film, then followed by Double Indemnity (1944), Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

Billy Wilder’s direction doesn’t just revolve around noirs, he has directed many films of different genres and is considered to be one of the most versatile, prolific directors of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” and after watching films like Ace in the Hole (1951), Stalag 17 (1953) Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), the above statement is awfully very true. Billy Wilder placed huge importance on the story and visualized characters based on it. I really find his way of operating things to be very enterprising, intriguing, and authentic. Very old-fashioned, but very effective.

Despite his conservative directorial style, his subject matter often pushed the boundaries of mainstream entertainment. Once a subject was chosen, he would begin to visualize in terms of specific artists. His belief was that no matter how talented the actor, none was without limitations and the end result would be better if you bent the script to their personality rather than force a performance beyond their limitations.

 The Apartment is a timeless, simple, absorbing, romantic-comedy-drama that has lot of good dialog, hope, love and the most important of all, an inside look at baxter’s soulful metamorphosis, a journey to feel and be human, to be a mensch!

Calvin Clifford Baxter ; C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is just another aam-aadmi working for one of the biggest Insurance firm stationed in New York. To facilitate his corporate growth, he lends his apartment to his superiors, so that they can quietly maintain their extra-marital affairs without taking many risks. In return, Baxter would move up the corporate ladder without much effort, without doing any conventional hard-work. Most of the times he feels utterly miserable because even when he is sick, he spends night in the park because his apartment is occupied by seniors. In office, Baxter meets his new boss Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) who offers him a promotion and free tickets to musical if he lets him use his apartment. Baxter invites elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) who agrees but doesn’t turn up because she is on a regular date with Mr. Sheldrake.

Sheldrake convinces Fran that he loves her very much and also tells her that he is all set to give his wife a divorce, so that he can be with her. Therefore, Fran skips her date with Baxter. Meanwhile, Baxter is now promoted to a new position and during the office party; he accidentally discovers that, Sheldrake is having an affair with Fran and Sheldrake’s personal secretary tells Fran that she also had an affair with the boss, she too fell for his divorcing line. On Christmas eve, Fran and Sheldrake schedule to meet in Baxter’s apartment. Disturbed, depressed and distressed Baxter picks up a woman from the bar. He comes home the next day to find Fran in his bed, overdosed with sleeping pills. With the help from philosophical Doctor (his neighbor) he nurses Fran until she is out of danger. He entertains her; they play Gin Rummy which keeps her mind occupied so that she does travel into a different frame of mind which is suicidal.

Sheldrake secretary meets his wife and tells his affairs to her. Therfore, he decides to break-up with his family and start a new life with Fran. Baxter is now totally in love with Fran and decides to marry her; he decides to convey this to his boss-Sheldrake but his boss speaks the same, he also asks his apartment to spend the rest of the time until divorce but Baxter says NO and quits the job. Fran finds out that Baxter has left his job and on her relation, refused Sheldrake his apartment. On new years eve, Fran ditches Sheldrake and run’s to Baxter’s apartment where they begin playing Gin Rummy again!

The story is simple, very practical, it peeps into the high-speed illusional corporate world and its infidelities, its perks and privileges at the cost of idealism. It shows how nasty people can get if you are submissive and on the other side how special it is to find someone who truly, really cares about you. The Humor is very delicate and often accompanied with metaphorical references, for eg. When Baxter expresses his profound supposition on his lovelife “Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. “ The movie has such frequent humorous illustrations on life, love. Filled with intricate details, The Apartment is very ingenious and does educate you to be a mensch ! :)

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