Excerpt from 2.8 Matt Zoller Seitz piece on Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment (’60): “Younger viewers may be struck by how engrossing The Apartment still is, considering how lengthy the scenes are (as in a stage play, they have clearly delineated beginnings, middles and ends) and how rarely Wilder panders to short attention spans by cutting to something else. Many of Lemmon’s best scenes are subtly choreographed one-takes that follow Bud through a space as he fusses, frets and mutters. This film does not ‘cover’ its action as so many modern movies and TV shows do, by photographing every scene with multiple cameras and cutting to a closeup of whoever happens to be speaking. The Apartment is directed. Every shot and cut matters. Confident decisions have been made about what’s in the frame and what’s out, who we’re looking at or listening to, and why.

Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond‘s screenplay is the foundation of this well-told tale. It makes masterly use of set-ups and payoffs, most of them encoded in props, such as the cracked makeup mirror that reveals that Fran is Jeff’s mistress (while also reflecting her shattered self-image); the hundred-dollar bill that Jeff gives Fran, which becomes her wordless suicide note, and the album by Jimmy Lee Kiang, the piano player at Fran and Jeff’s favorite Chinese restaurant, which announces Fran’s presence in Bud’s apartment and explains why she nearly died there. The movie is a masterpiece, structure-wise and otherwise — a rare Best Picture Oscar winner that might actually have been the year’s best picture.”