The promotional material for the short film “Boxing’s Been Good to Me” carries a quote attributed to Billy Wilder, who praises the work as a “masterpiece” and “absolutely first class!” I am not certain which Billy Wilder made this quote, but if it genuinely belongs to the great filmmaker who created “The Lost Weekend” and “The Apartment,” then it is fairly obvious to see why he has not been given an opportunity to make a film for the past 20 years.
“Boxing’s Been Good to Me” is not a masterpiece, by any stretch. It is a nicely produced but pointless student film about a severely untalented aspiring boxer who is so inept with his fists that even a child can knock him down. This is not so much of a one-joke comedy as it is a no-joke comedy.
To its credit, “Boxing’s Been Good to Me” is unusually well made for a student film, featuring exquisite 35mm cinematography by Lawrence Sher, crisp editing by Fredrick Johnson and a somewhat endearing light leading man in Adam Fitzhugh as the weakling pugilist who is totally clueless to his lack of ringside talent.
But beyond those key points, “Boxing’s Been Good to Me” mirrors the famous Gertrude Stein wisecrack about the city of Oakland: there’s no there there. The audience is literally left waiting for something to happen, but all that happens is the silly boxer gets knocked down repeatedly and then blows a chance at picking up a cute blonde in a bar by talking endlessly and aimlessly about the celebrated Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” match. Zzzzzzzzz.
(Boxing fans may also be a bit surprised at the lily-white boxing world depicted here and the line-up of fine-featured photogenic fighters who look more like male models than boxers. But then again, that might be expecting a bit too much for a student film.)
Actually, filmmaker Temple Brown lost a major chance here. Rather than give a copy of his film to Billy Wilder, he might have done better to give his camera to the long-inactive master and let him make a movie. Oh well…