Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sometimes City (May 16th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[SOMETIMES CITY screens Friday May 16th at 9:00 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque. Filmmaker Tom Jarmusch will be present to answer questions.

Aside from the late comic book writer Harvey Pekar, none of Tom Jarmusch (brother of Jim)'s interview subjects in the documentary SOMETIMES CITY could be considered celebrities. They're just ordinary Clevelanders expressing their often ambivalent feelings about the city in which they live. Chris Begay perhaps sums it up best when he says, “There's something about Cleveland that kind of taints everybody that's ever had a Cleveland experience.”

Shot in 2008/2009, SOMETIMES CITY could almost be seen as a companion piece to 2012's Detroit in decay and possible rebirth doc DETROPIA, but Jarmusch's film is more down to earth and rough around the edges. While there's no doubt footage was assembled in such a way as to convey a certain point of view, it still manages to feel natural and unstructured without being unfocused.

There is a decent effort at gathering a diverse cross section of Clevelanders for the interviews, but one could make the case that not all of Cleveland's ethnic communities are fairly represented, with Asians and Latinos notable for their scarcity in the film. One could also quibble with the fairly narrow selection of local music that Jarmusch opts to showcase, mostly punk/underground rock bands like The Mirrors, Short Rabbits, and Flat Can Co., the sole exception being funk/R & B band Texas Slim and the Blues Posse. It's not that the bands seen aren't worthy of exposure, but Cleveland's music scene is far more diverse than that. Still, it's Jarmusch's film, and I suppose one can't be too upset or surprised if the soundtrack reflects his personal tastes.

Those issues aside, SOMETIMES CITY feels like about as honest and real a movie about Cleveland as one could want. Regardless of whether you consider yourself an east sider or a west sider, if you're a Clevelander you'll find plenty here to relate to, and more than a few quotes are sure to ring true. 3 out of 4 stars.


  1. I'd been hearing about this film for a while now, and had been wondering if any exhibitor in Cleveland would have the guts to book it. Kudos to John Ewing at the Cleveland Cinematheque; in an ideal world, he'd leave here to go to work for the world-championship, better-funded and more glamorous Miami Cinematheque.

  2. I'd never want to see him leave but perhaps in a different city more people would attend and appreciate him more!

  3. I would think Jarmusch selected soundtrack music that fit with the mood of the film rather than merely trying to present the best Cleveland has to offer. Does everything have to be a local hype job?

    1. Thanks for the comment. The fact that this wasn't a hype job is a major part of what makes the film interesting. That said, I felt the fairly one dimensional choice of music undermined the intent of capturing the city's diversity of voices to some extent. I'm not saying the Orchestra should have been in the movie, as this is a working class film about working class people. And yes, the music Jarmusch picked does fit with that, but at the same time there are plenty of working class folks in Cle who don't listen to punk/underground music. I don't think it's a major issue with the film, but like the absence of any Asian voices it was something I noticed and felt warranted mentioning in a review.

  4. I agree, there was a certain sameness in the kinds of people and, as Bob noted, music. The film had an interesting lo-fi style but no discernible theme other than "Cleveland." There are all kinds of Cleveland! It's worth noting that Jarmusch hasn't lived in the city for many years. I was also struck by how long ago the interviews were conducted; many things have changed in Cleveland since 2008-2009.


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