Saturday, November 24, 2012

A is for

Apartments, apartments, apartments.

We can't stop talking about them-- the constant search for that holy grail--proximity to the subway, best schools, hippest neighborhood, lowest price, large communal space,  new (yes, please!) or old (siiiigh) appliances, and the list goes on and on.

The 1960 Billy Wilder film, The Apartment, offers quite a bang, especially for a 1960, black and white film. It basically follows one man, CC Baxter, played by the infamous Jack Lemmon, who works as a corporate minion at some large insurance firm here in New York. He, in order to climb up the professional ladder at his job where he is just one more body on a floor full of cubicles, rents out his apartment on a nightly basis to his bosses in exchange for favoritism. His seniors rotate nights at his abode on the Upper West Side, taking their mistresses there for a bit of fun. As you can imagine, all of these in-and-outs and their following cover-ups cause quite a bit of trouble in Baxter's personal and professional life. While at the office, though, Baxter encounters the charming elevator-operator, Fran (Shirley Maclaine). The plot thickens---dun dun dun---and things eventually spiral out of control as the pre-drawn lines between extramarital affairs, human relationships, and corporate America all begin to intersect.

It's a pretty modern-day concept to have been depicted in 1960. And we thought the whole house in the suburbs with wife and children and a bachelor pad studio in the city was a fairly-recent and all-together more of a modern tragedy of the downfall of true love, eh? Clearly wrong.

       Shirley Maclaine, twenty-six at the time The Apartment was released, was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. I'll be twenty-six in December, mind you. Not an ordinary feat for most of us. But, her character, Fran, resembles so many women that we converse with, meet out, and have befriended. The younger, other woman. So many other women exist, dear.

       Fran, although intrigued by Baxter and his endearing quirkiness, is continuing an affair with one of the top executives in the insurance office. She keeps hoping that he will leave his family in order to pursue a more "normal" relationship with her, but he sees no need. He even slips her a hundred dollars at Christmas for her to purchase something from Bloomingdale's for herself. Slips her the money. Talk about romance. He dismisses her like a father does an unruly, weeping child.

     Anyway, Maclaine's portrayal of Fran is admittedly realistic. She's a woman searching for love in the big city, but who is left feeling much like a lost and unworthy little girl who'd been swallowed up by the machine all around her. This gets real, right? Unfortunately, whether we relate or just know too many people who can, The Apartment speaks volumes about our society. It speaks volumes about our varying searches to find something or someone we connect with. Fran's emotional realization of her circumstances and her choice to find something more authentic--respect for herself--develops her into a pretty swell and much wiser woman.
My recommendation--Find this and see it.

Brooklyn Public Library, I thank you for providing me with the opportunity to view such a film.
And Maclaine, here's to you, girl. You're still at it.
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