Sometimes audiences just don’t know what to make of films that are both serious and funny (witness: The Savages). Considering Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is ranked No. 20 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs list, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s a comedy. Yet newcomers to 1960’s Best Picture Oscar winner — out in a new Collector’s Edition — might be shocked to discover it’s steeped in melancholy. C.C. ”Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has figured out how to succeed in business without really trying — by loaning out his bachelor pad for his bosses’ extramarital trysts. But the poor ”shnook” is actually selling his soul to America’s growing corporate machine. Wilder’s movie manages to be a scathing social satire and cautionary tale (the corporate lingo is prescient: ”preliminarywise,” ”manpowerwise”); a brilliant physical comedy (Lemmon’s tennis-racket-spaghetti-straining skills are superb); and a devastating romance between Baxter and Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). All of which makes Wilder’s masterpiece tough to take if you’re looking for a laugh riot. But thanks to film historian Bruce Block’s fact-packed commentary (note how Baxter’s wardrobe improves as he rises in the company ranks), a tribute to the late Lemmon, and a fascinating making-of doc, it’s easy to admire the director’s precision — the love theme here, the lonely-guy theme there — in blending drama and comedy. Altogether, a very satisfying experience — DVDwise. A
Genre: Romance, Comedy; Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine; Director: Billy Wilder; Author: I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder; Runtime (in minutes): 125; Distributor: United Artists (MGM)
Posted January 29 2008 — 12:00 AM EST
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