Each year, New Year’s Eve brings to mind The Apartment, a film whose climax takes place on that evening. When you watch it next, note Shirley MacLaine’s great bit of acting as everyone at the party is singing Auld Lang Syne and her face radiates the melancholy of the holiday- our shared delusion of renewal as time keeps slipping from our grasp. And then, in a moment, she realizes that she’s found one other good soul
in a city and an office full of iced cads and her smile lights up with love for him- all revealed without words in a single close up. It’s probably safe to say that this is among the greatest love films of all time, yet it’s about philandering, a suicide attempt, and the harsh coldness of the urban and office ecosystems. People talk often about the cynicism in the films of Billy Wilder, a Jewish escapee from Nazi Austria whose mother, stepfather, and grandfather did not escape. But the heels in this film aren’t malevolent, just empty suits who want to be liked by each other and aren’t concerned with anything as trivial as a woman’s heart. (More the evil of banality than vice versa) Yet that happiness in Shirley MacLaine’s face is genuine and hard-earned. Our hope in this life is to find one more gentle soul with whom we can pass the time and fend off the cold.