The Man with One Black Shoe (ESA)


eyglo02_dlMy dad has an impressive collection of DVDs and he often tries to convince me to watch films that are a little too avant-garde for my taste but every now and then he strikes gold.

For films he dislikes the first few minutes of he has little tolerance but his interest is broad enough to include everything from Pretty Woman to Deer Hunter.

He’s a big fan of Tom Hanks and for years he has been raving about the 1985 comedy The Man with One Red Shoe. I was skeptical but finally gave in and it truly was laugh-out-loud funny.

Hanks plays a concert violinist who is coming home after a trip overseas. When he arrives at the airport he’s wearing mismatched shoes because of a trick a friend played on him.

This leads to CIA agents pinpointing the violinist as a high profile suspect and a bizarre and hilarious series of events follows.

When looking up the film yesterday, I discovered that, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s based on a French comedy from 1972 called Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire (The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe).

The comedy came to mind yesterday when I read about Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson having the honor of meeting U.S. President Barack Obama along with other Nordic leaders in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Sigmundur apparently had a nice chat with the world’s most powerful person, whom he described to Sweden’s Aftonbladet as “as likeable as we have seen him on TV,” and stated that Obama had expressed interest in coming on an official visit to Iceland.

Obama would be the first U.S. president to come on an official visit to the country; Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon came here to meet other powerful world leaders and Bill Clinton after leaving office, making the hotdog stand Bæjarins beztu famous in the process.

Sigmundur indicated that he had managed to impress Obama and perhaps he did but I can’t help thinking that more likely, while Obama was nodding politely at Sigmundur’s ravings of his great native land, he was trying to wrap his head around why Iceland’s PM was wearing mismatched shoes, forcing back a smile.

But in fact, he didn’t have to force back a smile because as Sigmundur told, his mismatched shoes proved an icebreaker and apparently with him being the butt of jokes—Obama making fun of his footwear along with the other state leaders—lightened the atmosphere.

Journalists have speculated about this great mystery.

The most read story in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s and the Nordic region’s largest newspaper, today is not about the world’s most powerful person’s visit to Sweden and the U.S.’s foreign policy but about the Icelandic PM’s mismatched shoes.

At least they were not of different color—he was wearing one black Nike and one black dress shoe—but why on earth?

Did someone play a trick on him, stealing one of his dress shoes right before the meeting?

No, this was intentional. According to Sigmundur’s assistant Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, the PM’s left foot was swollen due to an infection and so the dress shoe didn’t fit.

Fair enough. But when you’re meeting the president of the U.S. you don’t wear mismatched shoes. It’s not just inappropriate, it’s outright disrespectful.

I doubt Sigmundur’s budget is so tight that he couldn’t have cashed out for a slightly larger pair of dress shoes and sent his assistant out on a shopping mission.

Or if they absolutely didn’t have the time he could at least have worn the Nikes on both feet. It wouldn’t have been classy but at least it would have been better than wearing two different kinds of shoes.

I don’t know if our PM managed to impress the U.S. president and his Nordic counterparts at the meeting but at least he managed to steal the attention and boast the most read news story from the event.

Maybe Sigmundur is happy playing the clown but who knows what the consequences will be?

The PM’s footwear might make him suspicious in the eyes of CIA agents in the wake of all the paranoia surrounding Obama’s security in Stockholm during the summit.

If nothing else, he has certainly provided material for a laugh-out-loud farce on par with The Man with One Black Shoe.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.