The Apartment, by Billy Wilder
No-one can act with their sinuses like Jack Lemon. Shirley MacLaine is his perfect opposite because she expresses so much with only very subtle facial movements while Lemon is doing double-time double-takes and setting off his eyebrows like jelly on a train. Fred MacMurray is as smooth as glass, perfect for a corporate sleaze whose main method of villainy is never to appear unruffled.
‘Something happens to men in elevators’, says MacLaine, and we still don't have a comfortable elevator etiquette even though we no longer accept casual sexual assault on our way to the office. It's not just that though. Something happens to men in offices. The film is an indictment of the crammed in, strip-lit, battery farm culture of open plan corporate life. Jack Lemon will accept any number of degradations from his superiors just to get a promotion he doesn’t ultimately want. Rather than see this as a problem with the system, we ought perhaps to see it as a problem with ourselves. If we dislike the trade off, either we can adjust our lives or change the trade.
Once they find love at the end, Lemon and MacLaine will inevitably find new jobs. I suspect they’ll be a lot happier in them too. All that neurotic sniffing Lemon puffs along with like a damp steam train will undoubtedly disappear. Shirley MacLaine’s headlamp eyes won’t be quite so mournful. Comedies end with the marriage because life gets happier and less dramatic after that. We tend to pick up the plot again for death, divorce, or midlife crisis, preferably all three. Perhaps one day some genius will make a brilliant comedy about a happy life. In the meantime, The Apartment is one of the best movies money can buy. Watch it before you start working in the office again. It will make you long for the days of good suits and big cigars. As with The Odd Couple, Lemon does some good comedy with spaghetti. (Or is it linguine?)
This video is a good analysis of the film
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