A new favorite, movie-wise

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.

17 comments:

Sarah said...

I kind of stray from the popular movies too. I haven't seen any of the ones you listed! I want to try to see the obscure movies that nobody's heard of before I venture into the well-known, quotable movies. Going backwards I guess!
I'm so glad you liked it! :D

NoirGirl said...

Yay Kate! I'm so glad you watched it. I adore this film too. When I first watched it, I only knew Fred MacMurray from seeing him on My Three Sons, and man it was hard to take! I was utterly shocked at what a rotter he is. But it made me love Jack Lemmon all the more. It is rather sad, isn't it? I always forget just how sad it is, because I only remember the happy parts.

I'm going to have to watch it again soon now. I'm dying to hear them say "That's the way it crumbles...cookie-wise." ;)

Millie said...

Yay! Lovely post!

MrJeffery said...

LOVE the apt. The ending is the greatest.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

While it is a wonderful movie, I'm less enamored with it than I used to be. I feel that the "gloom and doom" portion of the film drags a bit and though "The Apartment" won Best Editing at the Oscars, watch carefully the varying level of Shirley's Gin Fizz(?)at the restaurant with Fred MacMurray! ;)

Now that I've dumped on the movie, let me say that I love how it's typically acid-drenched view of the corporate world and how people use and abuse one another for material gain. I also like it as a "snapshot" of American life, circa 1960. I have other interests that occur during that time (Jazz, TV, art, etc). It's a time I used to worship, but I see it--and every era--with Wilder's cynical eye. Now if I only had his *talent*!

Kim said...

I love Apartment, It's my favorite Wilder film (and I love Wilder). When I fist watched it I was expecting more of a comedy not something that was so poignant. And although the look of the office has changed I believe the moral of Apartment is still very relevant today.

Zoe said...

great post, its never to Late to watch a fantastic film. Its my Absolute Favorite. soo Bittersweet.

pjowens75 said...

Great post, Kate. I too will sometimes avoid a film simply because it seems over-hyped. I'm 58 and I still haven't seen Gone With The Wind...the movie just has no real appeal for me. And I kind of echo what C.K. Dexter says about The Apartment: it didn't seem to have quite the same impact on me when I saw it again last year as it did when I first saw it in the early 70s. I still think its a great film, but for different reasons than before.

zoetropa said...

I'm so glad you finally saw The Apartment Kate, isn't it just wonderful! One of my all time favorite movies (I rank it #4 between All About Eve and My Man Godfrey) and Jack Lemmon is so great. I always try to watch it once a year around New Years.

Mercurie said...

Well, I believe you've heard me say it is one of my top 10 favourite movies of all time. That goes without saying I've seen The Apartment oodles of times. It's hard for me to pick a favourite scene then. I do have to say this, I think the moment when it becomes blatantly clear that Baxter has more than a crush on Miss Kubelik is when he is waiting outside the theatre showing The Music Man, in the rain, with a cold. Only a man in love would be so diligent!

Andi B. Goode said...

I'm quite easily impressed so I just watch anything, really.
But I haven't seen this film and really want to, as well. I especially want to, now!
-Andi x

Livius said...

I just watched this for the umpteenth time the other day, and enjoyed it every bit as much as my first viewing. Timeless stuff.

Tommy Salami said...

One of my all time favorites. From the soul-crushing office, with the unforgettable design, to the heartbreaking loss. For those who enjoy modern rom-coms, The Baxter by Michael Showalter is named after Jack Lemmon, and comes from the POV of the reliable fellow who always loses in these films nowadays.

KC said...

I went into this movie thinking it was a comedy--and I don't think I ever got over the feeling of "betrayal" when I realized it had so much darkness to it. Still, that script is amazing--one of the best ever! There are so many movies I've rewatched because I didn't quite get them at thirteen; you're smart to wait.

C.C. Baxter said...

You can't go far wrong with any Billy Wilder movie but this definitely is one of the all time greats.

Harley said...

WHY did I miss this?! This was such a wonderful post Kate!!!!

You are awesome. Seriously, everything I try and say and can't seem to put into words, you do!

I love The Apartment; I think it's one of those that I have to rewatch just cos it is so good, and well like you said, it could resonate with me deeper as a 19 year old than as a 17 year old.

Again, excellent post!

Jennythenipper said...

I loved your headline. Genius!

I never understand why the Apartment is billed as a comedy. It's actually quite a powerful drama. There are a few funny scenes, but there is always a bittersweet undercurrent. Isn't Fred MacMurray terrifying in this movie. Really, I think he's colder than he is in Double Indemnity.

It's a great film. Sometimes I think it's over-rated just because it gets shown on TCM SOOOO much, but, still it actually holds up well to rewatches to what's to complain.

Welcome to the madness, darling. Rest assured there are many, many, many treasures ahead on the journey. I still find movies every month that blow me away and I've been doing this classic movie obsession thing since 1985.