Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Apartment - Billy Wilder

Mad Men makes modern audiences get acquainted with a time when drinking and smoking in the workplace was not socially reprehensible. Films like The Apartment reminds us that the 1960's and the 2010's are completely different Worlds.

A winner of 5 Academy awards (including best picture), The Apartment hasn't aged well. Its jokes seem either moronic (the lead male trying to conquer the lead female preparing pasta using a tennis racquet) repetitive (saying "-wise" at the end of almost every sentence), or both. More importantly, today audiences simply can't relate with the lead characters: an elevator girl who  falls in love with a married big shot of a finance NYC-based company and expects him to divorce; and a guy who  lends his apartment to his superiors of  a finance NYC-based company as a way to get promoted but then falls in love with the elevator girl. Over the last 50 years, cultural codes have changed in such a way that modern audiences understand that an elevator girl (or her equivalent these days) who dates a married is probably doing it for the money, or at least doesn't expect him to divorce; likewise, it is assumed that executives can lease their own apartments for extra-marital affairs and, in the unlikely case they have to ask a subordinate for a place, writers and directors make sure that the subordinate is a despicable guy.

While The Apartment was seen as an innovative romantic comedy at the time it was released, modern audiences would consider it as a sub-par combination of noir film with a chick-flick: this is probably the first romantic comedy I've seen with an attempted suicide and existentialist reflections after it. 

The only thing that leaves uncomfortable with the idea that The Apartment was dated is the fact that other movies from that time (or even before) are still understandable and enjoyable. Probably The Apartment was overrated from the beginning. It wouldn't be the first time that the Academy creates a legend out of thin air...

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