Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Secret Life of C.C. Baxter

The Apartment

Billy Wilder is an amazing director, not that he wrote and directed such popular movies, but that so many of his movies are seen as classics more than 50-60 years after they were made.  His movies consistently have stellar performances, often better than the stars shine in films apart from his own.   And many of his films regularly make top lists of all time, including Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, and Some Like It Hot, and he stands with Akira Kurosawa, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorcese as being among the most praised directors of all time.   The Apartment, about C.C. Baxter making his journey from milquetoast to mature man, is one of Wilder’s most popular and highly praised films.

Technical—As Wilder films are opt to be, The Apartment is practically perfect.  A perfectly honed script, fantastic performances by Lemon and MacLaine,  cinematography that may not be the most interesting, but is very functional, especially for a story that exists mostly in offices and apartments.   As if we didn’t know, Wilder knows how to make a film.

Interest—3/5—Here’s my problem with the film, and it is personal, not having to do with the film itself.  I find upward mobility in an office setting to be stifling, even to watch from the outside.  It is great to see the characters grow and become something more than an office flunky, but getting there is so dull for me.  The best thing to watch was the performances.

Tension—3/5—There wasn’t much tension, except for his relation with his neighbors when MacLaine was knocked out in his bed.  The tension of him maintaining his clearly false “tiger” persona in the face of truth coming to haunt him was pretty tense.

Emotional—3/5—Again, the plot didn’t hold a lot of interest for me, so I didn’t feel very much, except for Fran and her dilemma.

Characters—5/5—Like the Big Lebowski, most of the characters didn’t interest me at all, but Lemon and MacLaine were marvelous, possibly giving the best performances of their careers.   Their chemistry rapport were fantastic and I loved the scenes of them together.  When C.C. gets them to play chess, that was great, so real.

Theme—4/5—Love is greater than ambition.   Sure, its cliché, but it’s a believable cliché here.

Ethics—4/5—I love how we are dropped in the middle of C.C.’s dilemma, with little context of how he ended up loaning out his apartment for his boss’ infidelities.  We don’t need to see what a wimp he is, the situation speaks for itself.  Even when he asserts himself, it is clear who has the power.  At the same time, we know that C.C. has no power because he has granted himself no power.  When he stands at the end we can feel the ethical backbone forming.

Personal—1/5—There was really no personal identification with this film, which is not the fault of the film at all.  It just had no real connection with my life.

This is an enjoyable film and I can say that I can see why it is considered a great film.  Actually, by all objective standards, I'd have to say it is a great film.  It is an early and very successful example of dramedry, in the way of Punch Drunk Love and Lost In Translation.  The acting and characterization was top of the line.  But my personal lack of empathy for the characters' situation reduces it in my personal rankings. 

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