The Apartment Blu-ray Review
Wilder's Mad Men
Filmmaker Billy Wilder's 1960 Jack Lemmon classic The Apartment marries adultery, sexism and office politics with a surprisingly sweet love story.Over a long and productive career in films together, Wilder and Lemmon delivered a series of classics, all of which employed Lemmon's witty neuroses to great effect. Despite the genius behind each and every one of them, the tonal changes were sometimes quite striking, and perhaps never more so in his masterpiece, The Apartment, an at-times tragic love story which sees Lemmon's beleaguered office grunt under the thumb of a number of arrogant office execs who coerce him into letting them use his apartment for extra-marital flings, in return for the mere promise of a somewhat mythical promotion. Things get complicated, however, when he falls for Shirley Maclaine's lift operator, who just so happens to be the big boss's extra-marital plaything.Almost sixty years on and it's somewhat worrying that the male chauvinism, objectification and rampant infidelity centred on a large bustling and mostly male-run office, doesn't feel as outdated as it really should. Wilder's keen observation on this kind of moral and political corruption is surprisingly stark despite the ostensibly light frills he uses to make the dark and biting core material more accessible, eliciting great performances from the likes of Lemmon and Maclaine, with the former at his tragic best. Cinematographer Joseph LaShelle shoots the hell out of this piece, giving it an unusual noir edge despite the subject matter, making for a striking watch, with the sweeping period score underpinning the whole affair. It's an absolute masterpiece; a timeless classic that's utterly unmissable.
Picture QualityArrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of The Apartment delivers the 1960 feature with a striking new 4K-remastered 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The 4K remastering is reportedly exclusive to Arrow themselves, working on the original camera negative, and the results are astounding for a film that's pushing 60.
The black and white cinematography, courtesy of noir Director of Photography Joseph LaShelle, looks absolutely stunning, belying the feature's age and actually leaving it in what surely must be regarded as the same condition it would have been in had it been shot recently.
A near-perfect example of what you can do with classic material from over half a century ago
Detail is at times astounding, picking up on every texture and every little line and wrinkle, lapping up the intricacies of the office as it extends into an almost infinite backdrop. The contrast is perfect, allowing for the rich black and white photography to accurately capture the environments, bringing the streets and bars to life, as well as, of course, the bustling office. Black levels are superb, and the gradation on the greyscale immaculate.
Despite just how impressive a job they've done with this there are still source issues that can't be resolved - for all the cleaning up of damage done, the original cinematography does leave a couple of sequences slightly softer than others, perhaps through the natural lighting in the scene. Still, it's a near-perfect example of what you can do with classic material from over half a century ago, lovingly restored with 4K tech, cleaned up and presented with superior texture, clarity and contrast. In those terms, it's both reference and demo through and through.
Sound QualityArrow open up The Apartment with an option over aural tracks, delivering a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix that provides a broader sonic accompaniment for the film, but also offering up an more conventional uncompressed Linear PCM 1.0 mono alternative that is more faithful to the original sound design. Both are excellent.
The best the film has likely ever sounded, with a choice of 5.1 and mono
Dialogue remains keenly prioritised across the frontal array in both affairs, but whilst the mono track presents most of its key elements with front dominance, the 5.1 remix does encourage the surrounds to get in on the action, mostly for the sake of the engaging score that keeps things buoyant but still emotionally resonant. Effects are notional, but the bustling office and busy city streets offer some semblance of atmospherics. Certainly it's the best the film has likely ever sounded and impresses much like the video presentation.
ExtrasOnce again Arrow have delivered the goods on the extras front, presenting The Apartment in a lavish package that provides a bounty of both new and previously available extra features, all of which will likely engage and entertain fans.
Headlined by film historian Bruce Block's Audio Commentary, which has been featured on previous releases, we also get the original half-hour 2007 Making-of Featurette, Inside The Apartment, which provides a warm overview of the film, its significance and impact, and its place in Wilder's fantastic oeuvre. There's also a 2007 Featurette on Jack Lemmon, Magic Time - The Art of Jack Lemmon, which runs just short of a quarter of an hour and looks behind the fantastic actor and his fabulous career.
Arrow deliver The Apartment in a lavish package
The new material is arguably more plentiful and impressive, though, with film historian Phillip Kemp's new appreciation and scene-specific Commentary offering an interesting counterpoint to Block's work, whilst The Flawed Couple is a new video essay looking at the partnership between Wilder and Lemmon. There's a new Interview with actress Hope Holiday, and an extended look at Wilder's career in the further Featurette Billy Wilder ABC. The package also offers up the original trailer, the original screenplay, and new artwork as well as a 150-page hardcover book too.
Blu-ray VerdictAn absolute masterpiece; a timeless classic that's utterly unmissable
Arrow's new 4K-remastered Region B UK Blu-ray release of The Apartment doesn't quite hit the film's 60th Anniversary, but is a landmark event nonetheless, with stunning video and audio and a fabulous selection of extra, all within a lavish package. If you've never seen the film, then now's the time to correct that.
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