starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston
screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
directed by Billy Wilder
by Walter Chaw The older I get, the better I understand Billy Wilder. And the better I understand Billy Wilder, his weariness and acerbic sense of humour, the more I feel comfortable saying, with that complicated mix of affection and fair warning that I think indicates his work as well, that his movies are assholes and mean it. Billy Wilder, the ten-cents-a-dance Austrian gigolo, the roommate of Peter Lorre who learned English by listening to Dodgers games on the radio, the admirer of Ernst Lubistch. The guy who demanded he be allowed to direct his own screenplays and so made a legendary hyphenate debut with Double Indemnity. The writing partner of both Charles Brackett and I.A.L. Diamond, the man who made whores of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, because nothing could ever be as simple, as innocent, as it appeared at first glance. The guy who lost family in Nazi concentration camps, who came up with the best closing line in movie history, which was "nobody's perfect." Maybe the last line of The Apartment--"Shut up and deal"--is a close second. Narrative context tells us the line refers to a card game; the Wilder context suggests a certain way of looking at the world: coping, acceptance, fatalism. Would you believe The Apartment is actually one of Wilder's optimistic films? Optimistic because the way it views the world is through a scrim of absolute cynicism--and despite it, despite all the towers falling down, there's the possibility of love, sweet and simple, between Ms. Kubelik and Mr. Baxter.