Margaret Cabaniss, my long-time friend (and long-suffering editor), helped me coin the faux-term a few days ago, and I love it. Just the right amount of pretension and accuracy, because a) it’s Latin-ish, and b) actually describes what I’m thinking about to a “T:” Movies that flit past on the outskirts of your cinematic consciousness; the ones that have been recommended to you countless times by countless friends, and that you know you’ll love and appreciate; those embarrassing blind-spots in your cinematic field of vision that haunt you, but that you just can’t seem to watch?
We’ve all got ’em.
OK, so I’ve got thousands. But I’m not here today to talk about the big one(s) that keep getting away, or about the personal moral failures that make such escape possible. Today, I’m here to talk about a victory.
For years, the film at the top of my “How In The Blazes Have I Still Not Seen This I’M SO ASHAMED?” list — The dreaded HITBHISNSTISA — was Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. I’d liked — nay, loved — everything I’d ever seen from Wilder — from the darkness of Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard to the lighter(?) shades of One, Two, Three and Sabrina; from the bizzareness of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes to the more traditionally-minded Witness for the Prosecution; even the genre-atomizing Stalag 17. All great fun to watch and digest; all part of the mounting evidence that Billy Wilder was one of the form’s true geniuses; all signs pointing to the fact that I should be ingesting any/all Wilder I could find. (And that’s not even a complete list of all the Wilder Worth Watching. The man was a machine, I tell you; a writing-and-directing machine!)
Yet despite my enthusiasm for the guy and his work(s), I still hadn’t made room for The Apartment.
Finally, though, I watched it. And I was blown away. Even with all the expectations (and all the guilt) that had built up it in the years (gulp!) prior, it was still better than I was expecting. So snappy, so full of heart, so hilarious and painful and hilariously painful, so wonderfully, wonderfully written. It’s a masterpiece; one of the great ones. (Yes, I know that seems to lay it on a bit thickly. No, it’s not hyperbole. If anything, I’m underselling it. Seriously. It’s amazing.)
With furthering his career in mind, an insurance clerk lends his apartment to his adulterous higher-ups for their amorous affairs. But his fast track to an executive suite gets derailed when he becomes involved with his boss’s latest conquest.
So, for those of you looking to finally cross Wilder’s masterpiece off your own HITBHISNSTISA list, I’ve got good news and bad news: The good news is that it’s currently available on NETFLIX INSTANT (and also on REDBOX INSTANT, which I’ve never tried, but offer for the sake of completeness). The bad news is that you haven’t seen The Apartment yet. But hey! Don’t forget the good news!
And for those of you who have already seen it, I have good news and bad news: The good news is that it’s eminently re-watchable. The performances, in particular, reward the re-viewer; they are extraordinarily subtle, I think. And that subtlety is key to the film’s success, which manages to place its characters in a terribly unfunny and contrived situation (on paper, at least), and somehow, make them funny. And human. And lovable. And redeeming. This last time ’round, I found it taking me in an entirely new direction then I’d traveled in previous viewings. More on that front to follow shortly, but in the meantime, you could do a lot worse than watching it again.
The bad news is…
…I’ve got nothin’, actually. You’re golden. Just click HERE, and let Billy and Jack and Shirley and Fred do the rest.