My notes on La Femme aux Chaussures Leopard (The Woman With Leopard Shoes)This chic black and white low-budget suspense film falls into that category of gimmick picture that includes The Thief (1952), which has no dialogue, or various movies set in stalled lifts … it’s a basic short subject premise, but the presentation is highly unusual, and writer-director Alexis Bruchon has set himself a challenge akin to writing a novel without the letter E. Aside from the protagonist, a nameless burglar (Paul Bruchon), and a corpse in the cupboard, none of the characters’ faces are seen on screen, and for the most part the camera takes the POV of the burglar, who is hiding under tables, and sees only their shoes. It may be a riff on the witty opening of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, but it also plays on the old saw that you can tell a lot about a person from their shoes – not least, in a world of film noir deception, that it might not be a great idea to trust the title character.
The thief is hired by the leopard shoe lady to steal a small box from a big-time shady lawyer and is given instructions to find it, which a) leads him to discover the incriminating dead man (who has, in fact, been killed with the mcguffin) and then to be trapped under the table as it turns out his employer has made a (deliberate?) mistake about dates and this isn’t the night when the house will be empty but is the night of the lawyer’s annual big party. Rooting around for documents, the protagonist identifies his employer as one of the lawyer’s partners and they exchange a lot of text messages – there’s very little dialogue apart from rhubarbing party chatter, but this has as much writing onscreen as the most intertitle-heavy silent picture.
It’s 80 minutes of will-he-get-caught suspense, with Paul Bruchon somehow getting us on the side of a crook-for-hire if only because he’s so obviously a likely fall guy, though it might take a couple of viewings to catch on to the machinations of the plot going on above tabletop level. It looks extremely cool and has a nice burst of retro-lounge for the theme tune.
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