Archives for posts with tag: In the Company of Men (1997)

I thought I’d find a way to include In the Company of Men to the chapter on small and medium sized cities, but it just didn’t fit.

In the Company of Men parking garage establishing shot

This little paragraph is as far I got into things:

Neil LaBute’s adaptation of his own play, In the Company of Men (1997), never declares where it is set, but it was filmed in what was at the time of its release the ninety-ninth-largest city in the United States, Fort Wayne, Indiana. An exterior long shot does not appear as an establishing shot until more than thirty minutes into the film; the first third of the movie pushes the buildings to the rear of the frame, making them barely visible through the blinds on office windows. When the film goes into the city, it marvels at the incongruity of an interesting space: Howard notes with some amazement that the town has such a good zoo – “really nice, for a place like this…a city this size.” While Fort Wayne does not have an extensive skyline, the Art Deco Lincoln Bank Tower and One Summit Square, which looks like a half-finished larger building because it is (the product of Fort Wayne’s faltering economy in the 1970s), provide the city some visual architectural identity. “Few contemporary films,” Stephen Prince claims, “have given us so ruthless a picture of the connections between personal and economic predation” as In the Company of Men, “an audacious and acidic portrait of sexual cruelty that links the callous behavior of its characters to the predatory ethic of corporate capitalism” (Prince 74, 73). The lack of identifiable buildings features or landmarks in In the Company of Men accentuates the (unnamed) city’s generic, anonymous office buildings and public spaces, foregrounding Chad and Howard’s misogyny and misanthropy as something universal in the white-American-male and embedded in the nation’s economic order, rather than a set of location-specific traits.

In the Company of Men first exterior establishing shot at 33 minutes

In the Company of Men nice for a city this size

An early version of the introduction to a chapter on Nashville, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas in prestige films between 1980 and 2000.

My mother lived above a grocery store in Lincoln Park, Chicago until 1956. The Giallombardo family apartment was within a half-hour El ride of Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan, the Magnificent Mile, and the (future site of the) John Hancock Building. A slightly longer El ride would take them to the (future site of the) Willis/Sears Tower and the Art Institute. Their pre-gentrification Lincoln Park neighbourhood was where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened; it’s where Dillenger was killed. That is to say, there are a number of physical locations in Chicago that are immediately recognizable, such as the tallest building in the world (for a while), major pieces of architectural history, public cultural amenities, and a popular history of gangsters. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, there were Chicago-set gangster movies like The Untouchables (1987, De Palma) and Mad Dog and Glory (1993, McNaughton), movies set in the city’s museums, like Ferris Beuller’s Day Off (1986, Hughes) and The Relic (1997, Hyams), films set in its public housing projects like Candyman (1992, Rose) and Judgment Night (1993, Hopkins), and films set in its working- and middle-class African-American community, such as Love Jones (1997, Witcher) and Soul Food (1997, Tillman). Chicago-set romantic comedies like My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997, Hogan) and period pieces like Eight Men Out (1988, Sayles) feature local sports stadiums and teams, an action film like Chain Reaction (1996, Davis) can be set at the birthplace of atomic weaponry, the University of Chicago, and some early (good) David Mamet films are also set in the city. Chicago may not have the cultural cachet of New York or Los Angeles, but its identity is as a major, world, city takes the form of this cinematic variety.

My father, on the other hand, grew up on Rockdale Street in Green Bay, Wisconsin. If you were to sit in the driveway of the house during a Packers home game, you would hear the public address announcer clearly, as the house is a little more than half a mile away from Lambeau Field. For the longest time the tallest building in Green Bay was St. Vincent’s Hospital (not named after Packers coach Vince Lombardi, and a ten minute drive from Rockdale Street) although after a recent upgrade, Lambeau Field is now the tallest building in Green Bay. I mention how close the Long family house is to Lambeau because the Packers are probably the only thing the majority of people in the US know about Green Bay. Two Hollywood films are set in Green Bay: Bingo (1991, Robbins) and Semi-Tough (1977, Ritchie). In Bingo, a family moves to Green Bay because the father, a football player, is traded from the Denver Broncos to the Packers, and in Semi-Tough the fictional football team the Miami Bulls go to Green Bay for a playoff game.* The Green Bay on view in Semi-Tough – snow banks, grey sky above – bears more than a passing resemblance to the Ice Planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Kershner), not only because it is, in the popular imagination, the Frozen Tundra, but also because it represents the single-biome planet written onto a small city.[2] The Star Wars films are full of single-biome planets: Coruscant (city), Dagobah (swamp), Endor (forest), Felucia (jungle), Hoth (ice), Kamino (ocean), and Tatooine (desert), and the United States is full of single-biome-planet cities.

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