The Apartment, or the United States seen through Billy Wilder’s satirical lens

Film still of The Apartment © RR

 Billy Wilder's name first made the rounds in Cannes during his first year at the festival in 1946 with The Lost Weekend, a film noir that was awarded the Grand Prix. 1960 marked a shift in tone with the director's The Apartment, a comedy drama that shines a light on the pitfalls of American society. Cannes Classics gives audiences the opportunity to rediscover a restored print of this social satire.

The Apartment tells the tale of C. C. Baxter, a kind-hearted if somewhat naive singleton who attempts to curry favour with his superiors by lending them his apartment to be used as a hideaway for their extra-marital affairs. Baxter discovers that his hardnosed employer, J. D. Sheldrake, is using the apartment to sleep with Kubelik, the lovely lift operator Baxter is secretly in love with. When Sheldrake puts an end to his relationship with the vulnerable young woman, she attempts suicide in Baxter's apartment, who seizes the opportunity to save the woman of his dreams while potentially risking his job.

Over and above the funny, slapstick scenes with their vaudeville twists and turns, the film condemns the social, sexual and emotional humiliations inflicted on these two ordinary people, ruthlessly exploited by their overlords. Under the cover of light, breezy simplicity, Billy Wilder paints a picture that is more complex than it first appears, serving up a wry, pointed critique of American society and the world of work.

Inspired by a scene from David Lean's famous Brief Encounter, the film was an instant hit with critics and won five Academy Awards, including the awards for Best Picture and Best Director, in 1961. Lead actors Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine saw their performances rewarded at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. 

Presented by Park Circus in partnership with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 4K digitally restored from the original negatives at the Cineteca di Bologna and supervised by Grover Crisp for Park Circus. Colour grading by Sheri Eissenburg at Roundabout Los Angeles.