My Celluloid Apartment

Cinema is built on the notion of fantasy. The very act of sitting in a dark theatre and watching a film has long been discussed as an act of escape, of regression, even of Plato’s Cave-like sensory deprivation (see: Apparatus Theory). Beyond pie-in-the-sky theory, Hollywood has constructed innumerable stories of aspirational wealth and glory. Even the rare film that deals with middle- or working-class issues is likely to end with some element of social mobility. For every Pretty Woman, there is a Richard Gere waiting to rescue her.

Why is it, then, that despite all these escapist films I find myself strangely drawn to bachelor apartments?

It all started with Rear Window. Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller is standard fare in any film program, and I saw it in the first year of my undergraduate program. I love Hitchcock, or I should say I love his films (he was an emotional abuser with major Mommy-issues), so it was no surprise that I loved Rear Window. But what struck me is how much I loved L.B. Jeffries’s apartment in the film.

It continued: although I could go either way on the film itself (I find Audrey Hepburn, the original manic pixie dream girl, to be trying), I’m enamoured with Joe Bradley’s apartment in Roman Holiday (1953).

And it struck me once again when watching Love Story (1970) last weekend. I so much prefer the couple’s apartment when they are scraping by as students”¦

“¦ to their Upper West Side apartment when Oliver is a successful lawyer.

What is it about these places? Why do I daydream of single beds, bursting bookshelves and ratty carpets when the history of film is filled to the brim with fantastic homes? I’m drawn to these places because they are familiar, and in a sense feasible. I recognize my own overflowing book collection and crowded desk in Love Story. I hear my neighbourhood’s loud residents, barking dogs and clanging streetcars in Rear Window. I feel my cramped living room and single bed in Roman Holiday.

Obviously, these places are still aspirational. It would be a dream to live in New York or Rome; to have that many windows; to have Ali Macgraw’s wardrobe (not to mention a kitchen that big – mine is half that size and has no windows or drawers.)

But these places feel close. I’m comfortable dreaming of them because they feel like they are within reach. Of course I can fantasize about living in an amazing home with huge bathrooms, a beautiful living room, and a spectacular kitchen/dining room like in The Kids Are All Right (2010).

But I can actually imagine myself in the other places. I can smell the dust and feel the well-worn floors. It doesn’t seem so far away. It is still an escape; not an unfeasible dream, but nonetheless aspirational for an unemployed student. So I’ll keep admiring the on-screen homes of the rich and fabulous. But I’ll be dreaming of a single bed in Rome. Of course, Gregory Peck in it wouldn’t hurt.

Editor’s Note: filmschooled kindly allows me to run amok through her tumblr looking for interesting things to share.  You can find this post in its original context by clicking right here.


One reply on “My Celluloid Apartment”

I’m a fan of the slightly messy/not perfectly orderly and matching aesthetic myself, and I credit various apartments and homes on film for loving this–specifically the huge, perfectly disheveled Parisian apartment in The Dreamers, the artfully quirky house in The Royal Tenenbaums, and slightly neater but still sort of rumpled homes/apartments in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Volver and the shore house in Broken Embraces. There’s a relaxed, lived-in feel to those sets that I strive to have in my apartment–I chafe at matchy-matchy sets of furniture that seem to be the norm, you know?

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