From Mark Smith: “Last night my wife and I caught a restored DCP of The Apartment at the Metrograph. I’d only seen this 1960 classic once or twice when I was younger, but have now watched it three times in the past six months. It just gets better and better.
“But last night was the first time I saw it with an audience.
“The crowd encompassed a wide age range. Some Millennials (20s), some middle-ish (35-45), some older (50s). My wife and I are 46.
“I was shocked — shocked, I tell you! — at how many people, old and young, were laughing during the scene where Jack Kruschen‘s Dr. Dreyfuss is trying to revive Fran Kubelik (Shirley Maclaine), particularly when he’s slapping her across the face. I guess it was nervous laughter, perhaps a ‘ha-ha, isn’t this part sooo dated?’ type of nervous laughter, but I was pretty put off by their reaction.
“The movie had been a sweet-but-scathing comedy up to that point, playing it broad-but-grounded with a sprinkling of genuine sadness that never veers into the Maudlinville.
“But that slap is a turning point: not only a literal slap to keep a character we really like from dying, but it’s a figurative slap in the face for Jack Lemmon‘s C.C. Baxter, the moment where he really begins his moral about-face; and it’s a slap to the audience, to wake them up and shout ‘Hey! Don’t you realize this whole situation — cheating husbands, drunken floozies, selling your soul for a window office — which we’ve presented up to now for laughs, is actually reeeeally fucked up and twisted?”
(Also: Was The Apartment the first film to allow an audience to hear a character vomiting off-screen?)
“But let’s say the audience was laughing out of shock that the doctor was slapping the girl in the face…well, what the fuck else was he supposed to do, given his limited resources? Being woken up in the middle of the night, his only supplies a black bag with a B12 cocktail, some instant coffee and an ineffectual schnook for an assistant? His mission was to keep the woman awake or else she’s DEAD.
“What the fuck is WRONG with you idiots??
“But the digital restoration looked really really nice. And the part where Fran is running down the street to Baxter’s apartment is one of the great romantic moments in cinema. What a great fucking movie.”