December 14, 2009
It's been a whole ten years since I first discovered classic films over Christmas vacation in 1999. What started as an initial obsession with Audrey Hepburn eventually transformed into a love of cinema in all it's pre-1970 forms: the pre-code, the artsy foreign film, the musicals, the soapy melodramas, the super popular movies like Casablanca and the ones practically nobody has heard of like Mary Jane's Pa.
If I was ever forced to name the one topic that I have any expertise in, I'd have to say classic film, despite the fact that my knowledge on the subject is pitifully small compared to many of the classic film bloggers and historians I admire. One of the things that makes me less qualified as an expert than many of my fellow film lovers is that I've watched far less well-known classics than most people who profess expertise. It's not for a lack of interest or a lack of access to the films -- put simply, I've tried to save some of the best films so that I didn't run out right at the start.
Mutiny on the Bounty? Never seen it. The Asphalt Jungle? Nope. Gigi? Nada. Gunga Din? No-sir-ee. I want to see these films desperately, and yet I avoid them like the plague when they show on TCM. Even though there are oodles of fantastic films out there that I know I'll be discovering and enjoying for years to come, there are only a handful of movies that are really considered out-of-this-world awesome by a consensus of movie-lovers. These films I want to reserve, and sprinkle throughout my life instead of experiencing them all for the first time in my first ten years of classic film.
And so this explains why, when I watched The Apartment last night, it was my very first time. Despite a very strong "why didn't I watch this sooner so it could have been a favorite years ago?" sensation, I'm glad that I waited this long to finally watch it. If I had seen the film when I first discovered classic movies, at age 13, it definitely wouldn't have had the same resonance that it does now, at 23.
In order to make sure I never spoiled the plot for myself, I've also avoided all blog posts, articles, synopses and reviews of The Apartment over the last ten years. After finally seeing it for myself, I can understand why it has such a great reputation but I'm also aware that everything I thought about it has probably already been said: the sweet sadness of the plot; the utter adorableness of Jack Lemmon; the dialogue (the dialogue!!); the way your heart literally breaks for Shirley & Jack; the smarminess of Fred MacMurray; how Edie Adams still shines in such a teeny tiny bit part; did I mention the sweet sadness?? I'm sure many people have done play-by-plays, pointing out their favorite parts: the tennis racket strainer (and wait til I serve the meatballs!); that awful moment of realization with the broken mirror; the $100 bill in the envelope; the entire episode where Jack Lemmon has a cold (have I mentioned the adorableness?); shut up and deal. (Now I finally understand this quote that I've been hearing for years!)
This was one of the sweetest, saddest, happiest, cutest, most depressing, most uplifting, fantastic films I've ever seen. And I think it's safe to say that it's definitely a new favorite, movie-wise.