Between August 1 and 18, the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence hosts a Billy Wilder Film Festival. The title is a bit of tease -- the museum is showing only four films and skipping lesser-known gems such as Ace in the Hole -- but its triple-Oscar opening film, The Apartment, has the signature Wilder style. The Apartment blends several genres: it's a sex comedy, a love story and a film noir peek inside those niches of the big city where the loneliest souls reside.
At the heart of the film are surprisingly natural performances by Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, an invisible clerk in an insurance company who loans his apartment to his philandering superiors under the pretense of career advancement but mostly because he wants to be liked. MacLaine (whom you expect to be kooky) plays the elevator operator Baxter takes a shine to.
What Baxter can't know at first -- and then can't abide when he finds out -- is that she's one of the chippies being wooed in his apartment by a heartless jerk played by Fred MacMurray. The scene in which Lemmon discovers the affair -- it hinges on a compact with a broken mirror -- is devastating.