Itʼs all too easy to mock eighties films, because they are almost invariably rubbish. When I was given The Man with One Red Shoe to watch, I thought I was in for a knockoff remake of Powell and Pressburgerʼs fifties classic The Red Shoes. Instead, I found myself watching a knockoff eighties remake of a seventies French film called The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe. Wikipedia lists the genre of this film as “Farce/Mystery,” which is a very apt description of the film I saw: it is a complete farce and a mystery why anybody would watch it. As with most eighties movies, “You had to be there” to really appreciate it. In this case, however, you had to be a masochist. Or a Tom Hanks fan. For if there is one redeeming feature in this tragic bric-a-brac of clichés and synth pop it was the presence of everyone’s favourite cuddly everyman, looking slightly confused while being improbably competent at everything.
Here he is a music teacher who unwittingly gets caught up in a grudge match between two senior CIA operatives. Thereʼs something about a failed mission in Morocco and a disciplinary hearing, but this set-up has very little bearing on the so-called ‘plot.’ Hanks carries off the main (read: only) joke of the film during the ʻbedroom scene,ʼ when Hanks hints that he has been keeping something from the femme fatale, Maddy. The watching CIA agents (itʼs a really weird film) all think heʼs going to reveal that heʼs a secret agent, too, but instead he reveals that heʼs composed Maddy a song. In hindsight, I think ʻjokeʼ was a bit strong.
“Instead, they created an uneasy mixture of rom-com, farce and spy thriller, reheating the dregs of each genre to create a sort of pot-noodle of awfulness”
At the end, Hanks wins against the nasty, fat old CIA man, but it is hard to feel any sort of catharsis: “Straight white male beats the patriarchy while being conveniently freed from his obligations so he can shack up with an unfeasibly gorgeous blonde – hooray!” It was hard to feel empathy with any of the characters, which would have been acceptable had this been a satire, but the real problem was that the writers never really determined what sort of film it was. Instead, they created an uneasy mixture of rom-com, farce and spy thriller, reheating the dregs of each genre to create a sort of pot-noodle of awfulness. It didnʼt help that the slightly offbeat premise and slapstick humour of the French original did not translate well to the slick world of Hollywood, and the racist, sexist eighties stereotypes felt especially grating. Even Hanks himself described it as “Not a very good movie.” And he should know…
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