Billy Wilder’s classic best picture winner is a wonderful movie that only gets more interesting when seen multiple times.
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Having recently decided to re-organise my Top 20 of all time movie list; I found myself stuck in a dilemma. For the sake of fairness (and to stop Hitchcock from having all 20) I made the decision that only one film per director can make the list. Some decisions here where made easily for example choosing Big Lebowski as my favourite Co-en Brothers movie or Pulp Fiction as the best Tarantino work. Choosing my favourite Billy Wilder film is something of a problem – how do you choose a favourite from some of the finest and most charming films ever made. After much internal debate I finally whittled it down to two films The Apartment (1960) and Some Like It Hot (1959) which I both think of fondly for very different reasons. I then realised that having not seen either in other a year it would be unfair to judge them solely on my memories of their charm and much easier to just watch both and see which I prefer – my review of Some Like It Hot will be next in my Film-A-Day challenge.

The Apartment was the first Billy Wilder film I ever watched. I remember watching it for the first time and being blown away by it’s witty, charming yet surreally dark portrayal of New York and its satirical look at office work, consumerism and love. I was instantly obsessed with it (this was probably helped by the fact that I watched it during my Fight Club phased and would’ve adored any film with a vaguely anti-corporate message). Since then I have watched the film several times and it has always stood up to its expectation. I was therefore excited to revisit it yet also filled with anxiety as to whether it would stand up to my ever changing and increasingly judgmental opinions.

As soon as it with its C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) statistical analysis of New York life, all my fears where quelled as I became absorbed in the film and immersed myself in the wonderful world that Wilder creates. Everything in the film is immense from its perfectly crafted screenplay; it’s excellent pacing and the beautiful set decoration. From the second we meet Lemmon we know the character and instantly like him – the-bumbling-nice-guy-who-can’t-say-no may be an archetypal character but that doesn’t mean you can’t love him. Lemmon’s performance dominates the screen and the audience feels throughout the emotions and chaos of the journey on which he goes.

The best part of the film though by far is its balance between comedy and drama; whilst the film is not the laugh-fest I expect when I watch Some Like It Hot. It is full of fantastic comic moments that are genuinely laugh out loud funny; with most of these coming from Baxter’s almost blind optimism. Taking this optimistic character and contrasting him with a down-on-her-luck pessimist Frank Kubelik (Shirly MacLaine) an equally great character and performance creates a beautiful dynamic in the film that makes the emotions felt by the characters and the audience towards the end of the film all the stronger. It is masterful.

The film does what very few films are able to do; it offers up a platter of mixed emotions and leaves you feeling emotionally tortured. After watching the film I couldn’t decide if I was happy or sad… it was sort of uplifting but in a strange sort of way. Such was my investment in the characters and that I couldn’t quite decide if I was happy the way things turned out; the ending has a slight tone of ambiguity to it that leaves you wanting more and questioning not only the film but also your own life.

 

A film which I adored previously and reaffirmed it’s adoration; the Apartment is a firm favourite of mine and it will take something special for Some Like it Hot to beat it to my Top 20.

 

10/10