Whenever either one of us go overseas on vacation, we pay particular attention to what’s playing at the occasional local revival houses. There are not many left, though, with a large part of the revival function shifting to official museums and Cinematheques.
A recent trip to Nice on the Cote d’Azur in France sud — not far from Cannes, glitzy home to the big annual movie blowout — was revealing.
Not only do we have a fair amount of readers in France, but we are also eternally grateful for how French critics for decades have extolled American movies — in many cases even more perceptively, say, that members of the Academy Awards. What would film noir be without the prodding of French movie critics?
Nice, the fifth largest city in France located along the border with Italy, enjoys a lively arts center. (It has a terrific opera house.) So what was playing at the Cinematheque de Nice situated in the downtown area right next to a forbidding structure referred to as the “Acropolis?”
Well, there was a fascinating retrospective of the work of director Jean Renoir. To be expected given the locale. But there also was this: Deux Rois de la Comedie Hollywoodienne. One of the kings referred to (the other was Howard Hawks) was Billy Wilder, whose 1960 title, The Apartment, was programmed front and center.
Some things you might want to know about The Apartment:
The movie co-stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. He plays a lonely insurance company drone who lends out his Upper West Side New York apartment to his corporate bosses for their extra-marital sexual trysts.
The plot revolves about the romantic interaction between Lemmon’s character with that of Shirley MacLaine, who plays an elevator operator. (Lemmon and MacLaine are pictured above.)
A New Year’s Eve party in the movie is the occasion for a number of epiphanies including the realization by MacLaine’s character of the true romantic intentions of Lemmon’s.
The picture was warmly received by both critics and the public. It was nominated 10 times for Oscars in various categories, including bids for Lemmon and MacLaine. It won the best picture nod and best director and best screenplay citations for Wilder (the latter shared with I.A.L. Diamond).
And here it is, playing in Nice 60 years after its initial release. A genuine classic.