Friday, January 5, 2018

The Apartment (1960)

Director: Billy Wilder
Notable Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kreschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Naomi Stevens, Johnny Seven

In an effort to be upfront and honest with the readers of this site and to give some context to this review, Billy Wilder films have never quite been my cup o’ tea. Massively respectable, sure, and I would even go as far as to say that I agree he made some of the defining films for multiple decades. Yet, many of the films I’ve seen of his never quite resonated with me. That is, until The Apartment. A multiple Oscar winning film from 1960, The Apartment is a dramatic comedy that pushed a lot of buttons for a film made in this time period. Its comedic moments are often dark at times and the basic plot and narrative adds a lot of layering to what could have been a fairly cut-n-dry dramedy. It’s a film that is impeccably crafted in terms of how it unveils its romantic comedy narrative and uses its stronger elements to deliver a thoughtful, layered, and humane story. For cinephiles around the world, it’s a film that deserves to be seen and this latest Arrow Academy release is the way to see it.

At least it's not a cube farm?
Using the backdrop of a massive insurance company in New York during the stressful and chaotic time of the year end, The Apartment focuses on a young and aspiring man, played with impressive range by the iconic Jack Lemmon, as his apartment becomes the center of a web of his superiors using it to entertain women...women who are not their wives. Even at this point, as the film unveils that the core of its subject matter is infidelity, it’s easy to see that The Apartment isn’t going to be the usual romantic comedy. The further that it explores the life of our young accountant, Bud, through his quirky narrative, interactions with those around him, and star-crossed lovers style of romantic infatuation with the elevator operator, Fran, the darker the film gets. While it remains comedic at its core style and through some of the strong physical comedy of Jack Lemmon to add to it, the film is much more serious than expected and touches on more hot topics than just adultery, like suicide, depression, and corporate retaliation. For 1960, it’s easy to see how provocative it was, but its topics are still relevant to this day. It’s sly in how it approaches them, using the comedy to cut the subjects from being too heavy, but it emotionally resonates impressively beyond the usual rom-com structures. If anything, it’s the themes and how the film approaches them that makes The Apartment a film that still works to this day.

Of course, beyond its themes and tonal approach, The Apartment also features phenomenal execution. Billy Wilder was nominated for best director at the Academy Awards 8 times for a reason and his work here shines. The meticulous pacing, the manner that he will show some of the awkwardness between characters, and the balance between comedic elements and dramatic elements are immaculately crafted. It helps when the cast is so strong too. As mentioned, Jack Lemmon brings is lofty A-game with the film finding that humane place within a character that could have easily been a broad-stroke protagonist and Shirley MacClaine delivers the perfect counterbalance to his energy with her subtle and detailed performance. The secondary cast is less defined than the two leads, but the manner that they bring out particular interactions or their cold and one-tone demeanors only strengthens the unique relationship that is core to the film and adds to the satirical and sarcastic nature of the film.

"Let me tell you about the elevator..."
Yet, despite all of the fantastic things that I can chime in about The Apartment as a film itself, this latest Arrow Academy Blu Ray release is the cherry on top. Not only does the film have a brand-new 4K restoration that’s crisp and beautiful, defining all of the great facial expressions from Jack Lemmon and the detail work that goes into the few sets of the film, the packaging is a cinephile collector’s dream. The new artwork, the box itself, and the hardcover book filled with articles and other written pieces adds even more depth and insight to the film. There’s special features galore and I added a list of all of its attributes below for those curious. Needless to say, like many of Arrow’s various collector’s sets, this one is impressive as hell.

Between the impressive release and the still valuable and resonating film, The Apartment remains a brilliant and deservedly respected piece of cinema. The piece of art itself is one worthy of the heaps of praise it has received and the packaging matches the quality of the product it enrobes. It’s a film that not only cinephiles will love and appreciate, but all kinds of movie goers will find something to latch onto. Even with my lacking connection to most of the Billy Wilder material I have seen, The Apartment rang true and it easily belongs in the upper echelons of its era.

  • Limited Deluxe Edition Blu-ray [3000 copies]
  • Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
  • Optional 5.1 remix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary with film producer and historian Bruce Block
  • New appreciation of the film and select scene commentary by film historian Philip Kemp
  • The Flawed Couple, a new video essay by filmmaker David Cairns on the collaborations between Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon
  • Billy Wilder ABC, an overview by David Cairns on the life and career of the filmmaker, covering his films, collaborators and more
  • New interview with actress Hope Holiday
  • Inside the Apartment, a half-hour making-of featurette from 2007 including interviews with Shirley MacLaine, executive producer Walter Mirisch, and others
  • Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon, an archive profile of the actor from 2007
  • Original screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (BD-ROM content)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Special collector's packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick
  • Collector s 150-page hardcover book featuring new writing by Neil Sinyard, Kat Ellinger, Travis Crawford and Heather Hyche, generously illustrated with rare stills and behind-the-scenes imagery

Written By Matt Reifschneider

No comments:

Post a Comment