Every year I spend the holiday season watching old films on the biggest screens possible, and every year this delights me as few activities in cities ever do. Alone in the dark shoulder to shoulder with rapt strangers, I feel connected to the human condition in a way that is more pleasurably than painfully melancholy. Yesterday, in a green, absinthe-infused hangover I watched 1936’s My Man Godfrey–the Carole Lombard and William Powell vehicle that’s as much smoke as it is fire–long-lashed and heavy-lidded and soaked in a satiny, Depression-era fuck-you politique. I loved it. The day before, I poured vermouth and sherry and watched 2008’s A Christmas Tale, Arnaud Desplechin’s neurotic, erotic paean to love lost and barely found. Its deep skepticism of blood bonds enthralls me almost as much as Deneuve’s red-lipped what-the-fuckery. This is to say: quite a lot.
Today at Metrograph, I ogled The Apartment, one of my favorite Billy Wilder films of all time, which means it’s one of my favorite films, period. Featuring midcentury, midtown New York at is its most woebegone and most sharp-toothed (most rumpled and stylish, too), this 1960 love story lampoons corporate America’s immorality while not-so-secretly upholding underdogs of every walk of life. Not only is it the most Jewish Christmas movie Hollywood ever made, it’s the baseline for all NYC-based romcoms since–all romcoms worth their salt, really. As clever as it is melancholy, New York’s grabby, glamorous melting pot presides as a central character, and its lonelyhearts discover each other via a Manhattan scavenger hunt of great flourishes and rueful afterthoughts. Neither Jack Lemmon nor Shirley MacLaine were ever so sweethearted again, and that’s saying a mouthful. Movie love to you all tonight. Any light in the dark deserves to be honored in this holy terror of a year.