The Cleveland Blues

I’m in Billy Wilder Land, for professional reasons (but also for pleasure).

In the case of THE FORTUNE COOKIE, that takes me to Cleveland.

Remarkable how this blackish comedy can looking so much like a bleak European art movie. Partly it’s the b&w coupled with widescreen which pushes thing further away/puts more space around them. But partly I think it’s Cleveland.I’ve never been there, but the place has kind of grey associations for me, based solely on Harvey Pekar’s comic strips, and partly from the scene in Jim Jarmusch’s STRANGER THAN PARADISE where the protags decamp to Ohio and find the city to be an ICY, HOWLING WHITE VOID. If I recall aright, the credits actually claim the film was shot partly on location there, but they might as well have overexposed a shot in a studio against an infinity curve while holding the mic next to a hair dryer.

So those are my mental images for Cleveland: Robert Crumb cross-hatching and howling white voids.I doubt if the place is that bad. I’d be happy to live in one of these houses, if there were a bus route nearby.As for football stadia… well, I know intellectually that people like sport, though I can’t quite see why, but does anyone consider the stadium an attractive thing in its own right? Wilder adds greatly to his film’s melancholy by staging the resolution on a deserted football field (or “green,” as I believe it’s called). With the cleaners looking on.é

Some critics at the time took the film as a sign that Wilder was getting soft…

I like the music — maybe Andrew Preview Andre Previn’s best film score? Walter Matthau’s theme sounds a bit like the later ODD COUPLE, but as if his character of Whiplash Willie Gingrich had sort of sidled up to that score and corrupted it by mere proximity.

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8 Responses to “The Cleveland Blues”

  1. Some more Cleveland based grimness: Frankie Bono, the uber-alienated assassin from the ultra-bleak BLAST OF SILENCE hails from Cleveland too!

  2. Excellent! A Cleveland state of mind.

  3. No, a football field is just a field, not a green. Cleveland’s team is the most notably and chronically hopeless there is, as is appropriate.

  4. chris schneider Says:

    I’m with you on the Previn score, which is quite good. It also quotes from his earlier score for Wise’s TWO FOR THE SEESAW. I’ve yet to be able to sit through the entirety of SEESAW, but … I looked at the credit sequence a few minutes ago, on YT, and it looked awfully inviting. More b&w ‘scope, only this time photographed by Ted McCord and designed by Boris Leven. Not bleak. Closer, perhaps, to the style of Mulligan’s LOVE WITH A PROPER STRANGER, or maybe Wise’s later TWO PEOPLE.

  5. Chris, I have seen none of the films you cite but they all SOUND awfully inviting.

    JBS, yes, I was kidding, playing the part of the sporting ignoramus (which admittedly I am).

  6. chris schneider Says:

    The Mulligan I’d recommend. Glenn Erickson wrote about it recently. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of SEESAW. As for TWO PEOPLE, my only knowledge is reviews from when it came out (1973).

  7. Thanks! I love b&w ‘Scope anyway…

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