THE APARTMENT + THE SWIMMER

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February 06 only

This film is part of our Mad Men Weekend with Matt Zoller Seitz. Read more about the series here.

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“Wilder, a bilious and mercurial wit, here becomes a wide-screen master of time.” Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Directed by Billy Wilder from a script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, this groundbreaking comedy-drama about the power dynamics in the Manhattan offices of an insurance company is still startling and moving, thanks mainly to its grasp of just how cruel and deluded people can be when sex, love and approval are at stake. Jack Lemmon plays C.C.”Bud” Baxter, an office drone who lets executives use his apartment for extramarital dalliances; Fred MacMurray is Jeff Sheldrake, a top boss who promises to promote Bud in exchange of the exclusive use of his flat; Shirley MacLaine is Fran Kubelik, who becomes the latest of Sheldrake’s conquests, with disastrous results. The film is filled with situations familiar to Mad Men fans, including an office Christmas party that becomes an emotional disaster area, the use of Broadway show tickets to curry favor, and the institutionalized practice of treating female office workers as playthings or prizes. Edie Adams costars as a secretary whose last name is Olsen.

1960, 125 min, DCP

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“As do few movies, The Swimmer stays in the memory like an echo that never quite disappears.” Vincent Camby, The New York Times

Frank Perry directed this suburban drama; his wife, screenwriter Eleanor Perry, adapted the original 1964 short story by John Cheever, about a man named Ned Merrill (Burt Lancaster) who acts out his midlife crisis by returning home from a cocktail party by “swimming” through every pool in his neighborhood, believing that together they form a “river” back to his house. Essentially a depressive 1960s Connecticut cousin of “The Odyssey”, this film and Cheever’s original short story were cited often by TV critics writing about Mad Men, especially in conjunction with season four’s “The Summer Man”, in which Don Draper tries to pull himself out of an alcoholic tailspin through a regimen of journal writing and swimming laps at the YMCA pool. But the film resonates with the series in more general ways. Like much of Mad Men, The Swimmer is concerned with upper-middle class East Coast suburbanites who fancy themselves sophisticated but who seem dissatisfied and depressed, and whose misadventures with sex and alcohol make messes of their home lives. Also like Mad Men, its tone is at once realistic and curiously dreamlike, and the characters’ specific actions could be interpreted as metaphors if the viewer chose to go that route.

1968, 95 min, DCP

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