Apartment, The - (Import Blu-ray)
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Romance at its most anti-romantic that is the Billy Wilder stamp of genius, and this Best Picture Academy Award winner from 1960 is no exception. Set in a decidedly unsavoury world of corporate climbing and philandering, the great filmmaker's trenchant, witty satire-melodrama takes the office politics of a corporation and plays them out in the apartment of lonely clerk CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon). By lending out his digs to the higher-ups for nightly extramarital flings with their secretaries, Baxter has managed to ascend the business ladder faster than even he imagined. The story turns even uglier, though, when Baxter's crush on the building's melancholy elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) runs up against her long-standing affair with the big boss (a superbly smarmy Fred MacMurray). The situation comes to a head when she tries to commit suicide in Baxter's apartment. Not the happiest or cleanest of scenarios, and one that earned the famously caustic and cynically humoured Wilder his share of outraged responses, but looking at it now, it is a funny, startlingly clear-eyed vision of urban emptiness and is unfailingly understanding of the crazy decisions our hearts sometimes make. Lemmon and MacLaine are ideally matched and while everyone cites Wilder's Some Like It Hot closing line "Nobody's perfect" as his best, MacLaine's no-nonsense final words "Shut up and deal" are every bit as memorable. Wilder won three Oscars for The Apartment, for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (cowritten with long-time collaborator I A L Diamond). Robert Abele
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