The Woman With Leopard Shoes

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Woman With The Leopard Shoes
"A superb example of art flourishing within constraints." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

How much can you tell about a person from their clothes? What about their shoes? There's an early sequence in Alexis Bruchon's taut little thriller in which we watch people dressing but never see their faces. We take in indicators of personal style, gender, class and social role. We get just a hint of how unreliable all this information might be.

At the centre of the film is a burglar (Paul Bruchon, the director's brother, who works surprisingly well in his first acting role). He's commissioned by a woman he never sees to do a very particular job: to break into a big house and steal a hidden box. At first everything goes to plan. The house is quiet, the entry process simple, the box not hard to find. But before our erstwhile hero is able to slip away, disaster strikes: a large group of people arrives at the house and a party commences. Hiding out in the small study where he found the box, the burglar is unable to escape. He will spend the next hour darting from one dark corner to another as guests blunder in and out of the room to undertake small errands, to snog where the others can't see them, or to do much more dangerous things.

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Shot in luscious black and white that recalls the early work of Mario Bava, The Woman With Leopard Shoes is thick with tension and manages its twisty little plot surprisingly well given the limited tools at hand. All the burglar really gets to see of the people who come into the room is their feet, but distinctive footwear helps us to keep track, and those leopard shoes - with the walk that accompanies them - really make their presence felt. Their owner, who asserts that she is the woman who commissioned the theft, corresponds with our hero through a series of hastily typed text messages. Can he count on her to get him out of there? What is it that she wants with the box anyway? Initially willing to take everything at face value and sticjk to his professional codes, he gradually comes to suspect that he will need to solve a deeper mystery if he is to have any hope of escape - or even survival.

Though some elements of the story get a little repetitive or run on just a bit too long, this is, overall, an impressive piece of work, and it's directed with remarkable assurance by first-timer Alexis Bruchon - who also wrote, produced, lit, photographed, edited and even scored it, as well as doing the sound design and sound editing, and helping to build the set - despite having no prior experience. What he has accomplished with the music is particularly impressive and again harks back to early giallo, adding vitality to even the most restricted moments of action.

A deserving Frightfest pick, this film is a spectacular calling card and should draw serious attention to Alexis, who has recently commenced shooting his second film. it's a superb example of art flourishing within constraints, its ting budget having led to greater invention. Catch it if you can.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2021
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A burglar is hired by a mysterious woman to steal a box from a house. As he is about to leave, the sudden arrival of guests forces him to hide in the study. The situation takes a turn for the worse when he makes a startling discovery.

Director: Alexis Bruchon

Writer: Alexis Bruchon

Starring: Paul Bruchon

Year: 2020

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: France

Festivals:

Glasgow 2021

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