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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 8/2/02



The Apartment
1960 (2001) - MGM

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Apartment Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C/D

Specs and Features
125 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, original theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English, French and Spanish (2.0 Mono), subtitles: French and Spanish



"That's the way it crumbles... Cookie-wise."

Billy Wilder's The Apartment is an odd movie. The lead character loans out his apartment every evening so his bosses can have extra-marital affairs, and he hopes that it might get him promoted. The building's elevator operator is having an affair with a man she knows is married, and tries to commit suicide. But despite the obviously "appealing" description, The Apartment is one of the greatest romantic movies ever made, and, in my opinion, Billy Wilder's best film.

Jack Lemmon is C.C. "Bud" Baxter, an insurance salesman who gets a completely undeserved promotion from the head of personnel (Fred MacMurray), when he loans out the key to his apartment for his boss's extra-martial affair. Bud doesn't know who it is and doesn't care to know either. He'd rather keep his mind on the cute Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), whom he sees in the elevator every day. But every advance he makes towards Fran is ignored, and Bud can't understand why. Can you guess that Fran is the on-the-side girl for Bud's boss?

The Apartment excels on our liking these characters in spite of their ugly sides. Both Lemmon and MacLaine's performances are filled with charm. And it certainly can't hurt that they're speaking words from Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's pen.

But there are plenty of romantic films that are cute enough, working because both of the stars are likeable (see just about any Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts comedy). The Apartment is set apart from the normal romantic fodder because it's not afraid to show warts and all. Not only are the characters multi-dimensional, the film also has some moments that are pretty uneasy to watch. There is a long section, about an hour and fifteen minutes-or-so into the film, where Bud struggles to keep Fran awake after she overdoses on sleeping pills.

At the center of it, The Apartment is not necessarily about love, unrequited or not. Rather, I think it suggests that the traditional concept of love is one that doesn't really work today. It's better to find companionship with someone you can get along with, than to chase a dream of love because some guy/girl is good-looking or successful. It's a new kind of love. I think that it's the most hopeful kind, which is why I think The Apartment is one of the most hopeful films ever made, and why it rests as one of the greatest romantic comedies.

MGM has done a good job preserving this classic for DVD. This print is about as clean is its going to get. The colors (or rather the gray-scale) are sharp. Film grain only pops up here and there. There is some artifacting in the image at times, where the camera moves quickly, and there is some haloing from the edge enhancement. It's obviously not a perfect picture, but this was the first time I had a chance to see this film in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it looked just great for a 40-year-old film.

The video is accompanied by the original mono track, presented as two-channel mono. The fidelity is good and dialogue is presented understandably. But it is mono, so it's not surrounding whatsoever. And the ADR is very noticeable, mostly due to the recording techniques at the time. But, again, it's a big step above my VCR copy.

In terms of extras, all you'll find is the trailer back from 1960. It's rather bland and grainy (for the life of me, I don't know why studios don't preserve their trailers).

The Apartment is on the AFI lists for the top 100 movies, the top 100 comedies and the top 100 romances. It's a film that's stood up so well, that it feels as fresh now as it must have back in 1960.

Graham Greenlee
grahamgreenlee@thedigitalbits.com




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