Sometimes, uncorking a bottle of champagne sounds as if you shot yourself. Blunt and dry, piercing your chest. Well he was in charge of showing it the unforgettable final scene of Apartment, when Shirley McLaine comes running through the streets of New York to meet Jack Lemmon and down the stairs a kind of explosion short of breath. Boom!
Christmas can be like that cork that seems to have dynamite inside. When it jumps, it causes the opposite effect to the expected one, even to the desired one. It can be the worst of times possible, the least grateful and most severe time with one, lying down with your bag of nostalgia that weighs more than coal, reminding you in every excessive celebration that is missing, like that dish on the table, that called on New Year's Eve or that gift of Three Kings.
When Christmas arrives, I always think of my grandmother, who spoke of loneliness as a biblical threat. I never wanted to stay alone or die alone. As if we could choose not to die alone. Even if all of our loved ones surround us on the deathbed, we will all end up finding ourselves alone with La Parca and crossing it to the other side of the river. But I think of my grandmother for another threat that worried me much more as a child at Christmas. When I ever got out of the pot, I would say, as a reprimand, that if I did not behave well, the Three Kings would not come. That was what he feared. I have always thought that the worst thing was not that the Magi left me coal but that they passed by my door. Let them forget me.
In Apartment, Jack Lemmon – the memorable C.C. Baxter in the film – is a being who is alone at Christmas, but who is also a victim of oblivion. In another magnificent scene, like every second of that Billy Wilder work of art, Lemmon finds himself drunk in a bar on Christmas Eve. He crosses a Santa Claus, perhaps more drunk than he and has left "the sleigh in double row", and a woman equally drunk who throws straws to get their attention and puts music in the jukebox in exchange for another glass of rum. Through a drunken dialogue – the only dialogue for which a kingdom is worth gambling – Lemmon confesses to a woman who is not married or has a family, and something equally painful, even worse: the person she loves is with another. "I said I did not have a family, not that my apartment was empty," Lemmon responds in a sentence that summarizes the entire film. Then, he takes another sip of his drink.
Boom! A bottle of champagne ringing as if you were shooting yourself. Or stick it. And Christmas like that bar in which Lemmon, that Robinson Crusoe, "shipwrecked among eight million people," seems to have a wonderful "dinner for two" that he does not have. Billy Wilder said that it is much more difficult in a film to achieve a happy ending than a sad one. That's why I see every Christmas religiously Apartment. To remind me that, sometimes, uncorking a bottle of champagne sounds as if you shot yourself, but also, and fortunately, it can be the preamble to the best card game in history.