Sunday, 23 August 2015

#26 The Apartment

Number 6 in my attempt to watch 15 more films to see before you die, The Apartment, a story of love doesn't need to shout to gain it's place at number 1 and may possibly be one of my new favourite films.

I came with no real expectations for what a number 1 film on the list would be like. So far the list has introduced me to a few cinematic delights but on the whole I've felt slightly cheated by what have felt like empty recommendations. It's very understandable given that preference is such a subjective thing, so some films will be there simply because they tick all the boxes rather than their ability to pull on any heartstrings. Nevertheless, The Apartment, initially appears to be a rogue contender given it's seemingly mundane setting and subject (it is essentially a tragi-comedy based on the life of a Manhattan insurance worker). But it is exactly it's celebration of the mundane which makes it so interesting and loveable.

Like dipping into another world or taking a trip to a new city, The Apartment, places us firmly and assuredly into the lives of it's characters. Details like the smoke filled hedonistic new years parties in what were crisp sad Manhattan offices, kitsch poorly lit Chinese bars, and more importantly Baxter's apartment, never feel like they were supposed to be 'convincing' but rather accurate and just so. Character's too are realistic in their perfect balance of flaws and charm. They are also surprisingly modern as we see the men crassly organise their affairs and the women lament their situations of being"took". This perfection is the result I suppose of everything coming together; director, screenwriter, set designer and most importantly perhaps actors, or in this case actresses. It is also interesting looking back that the beginning of the film opens with similar accuracy as Baxter begins;

On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company - Consolidated Life of New York. We're one of the top five companies in the country. Our home office has 31,259 employees, which is more than the entire population of uhh... Natchez, Mississippi. I work on the 19th floor. Ordinary Policy Department, Premium Accounting Division, Section W, desk number 861.

For me though it is a young Shirley Mclaine, who plays the part of Fran, who really makes the film and is again a very modern character. An independent 20 something, depressed but cheerful 'good girl', Fran is probably too demure and melancholy by today's standards, but watching her she completely steals every frame and is completely charming. The closest modern day equivalent I can think of is Rory from Gilmore Girls, but even then Fran is simply a lift operator, who "can't spell", unlike the Yale prodigy. It's this down on their luck but still smiling attitude which characterises the film, resulting in what could be an overdose of pathos, but in the end the film is too real and funny for that and any misfortune or hardship is dealt with by gentle comedy.

I really love this film. It's sweet, funny and incredibly interesting if you like the period (1960).


No comments:

Post a Comment