The Apartment (PG)

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The Independent Culture

Wilder's 1960s Oscar-scooper is far and away the most accomplished and engaging film of the week, and worth catching on a big screen for once – Wilder's cynicism seems less overpowering, and the chances for Jack Lemmon's careerist shnook and Shirley MacLaine's self-destructive elevator girl seem bigger.

CC Baxter is a drone in a New York insurance corporation who lends out the key to his apartment to senior executives with lady-friends to entertain: how far this is self-promotion, and how far he's just a biddable dupe is left open to interpretation. The object of his affection is Fran Kubelik, but she is in love with his boss, the smooth, all too plausible, Mr Sheldrake.

The moral undertone is deeply nasty – practically everyone in the corporate world is, at some level, either a prostitute or a client – but is neutralised by Lemmon's perpetual optimism (this was at a point in his career before mannerism had set in), and MacLaine's intelligence and sheer vitality (this is about the only time she managed to play a good-time girl who wasn't depressingly stupid – see Some Came Running, Sweet Charity). And Fred MacMurray, as Sheldrake, gives one of his two great portraits of blandly corrupt insurance men (the other one was in Wilder's Double Indemnity). Essential viewing.

Watch The Apartment's original trailer