The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2021 Review - THE WOMAN WITH LEOPARD SHOES | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2021 Review - THE WOMAN WITH LEOPARD SHOES

The Woman with Leopard Shoes review
A burglar finds himself trapped during an unexpected party.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alexis Bruchon

Starring: Paul Bruchon

The Woman with Leopard Shoes poster

Cellphones have had a detrimental effect on movies. No, I'm not talking about those annoying plonkers who can't put their phones down for five seconds and insist on constantly texting while at the cinema, turning the average auditorium into something resembling a Scorpions concert. I'm talking about how cellphones have been integrated into movies themselves. If you're making a horror movie or a thriller, you inevitably face the question of how to get around the inconvenience of your protagonist being able to call or text for help, usually dispensed in awkward fashion by having characters complain about a lack of coverage, even if they're in downtown New York.

And then we have filmmakers who have embraced texting and implement it into their storytelling. I think the first time I saw text messages appear on the screen was in the pilot episode for BBC's Sherlock. It was a novelty then but it's become an over-used tool now, and no matter how graphically fancy you make it, watching people send text messages back and forth just isn't cinematic.

The Woman with Leopard Shoes review

That's the problem with French writer/director Alexis Bruchon's debut The Woman with Leopard Shoes. It initially teases us the sort of challenging premise that the likes of Hitchcock or De Palma might revel in, but cheats us by devolving into a stream of text messages. You know how in the silent era some filmmakers just didn't have the skill to tell a story with pictures and so peppered their movies with so many caption cards that you felt like you were reading a book rather than watching a movie? Same thing here, but with text messages.

The setup is certainly tasty. A burglar (Paul Bruchon) is hired by a mysterious woman to break into the home of a prominent lawyer and steal a small wooden box from his study. Blindfolded, our anti-hero doesn't see the woman's face, identifying her only by her distinctive leopard print shoes.

The Woman with Leopard Shoes review

When the burglar breaks in, he retrieves the box but finds an unwanted surprise in the form of a dead man stuffed into a closet. Just as he's about to flee the scene, a swarm of people arrive in the house. It seems the lawyer is throwing a well-attended party. Hiding out in the study, the burglar plots his escape and uncovers a conspiracy in the process.

This initially intriguing premise is laid out in spirited fashion by Bruchon. It seems we're in for essentially a silent movie, and Bruchon presents his anti-hero's POV in the manner of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, only showing us the feet of any other characters that enter and exit the narrative. Bruchon has set himself as much of a challenge as that which he poses his protagonist, but ultimately he's unable to sustain our interest. The burglar is a blank cipher – we know as much about him as we do the thief from those old Milk Tray ads – and so it's difficult for us to care about his predicament. It doesn't help that Bruchon dispenses information in the dullest way imaginable, as the burglar rummages through documents for written down clues (who prints out their emails?).

The Woman with Leopard Shoes review

But The Woman with Leopard Shoes really collapses when the titular femme fatale enters the study and writes down her cellphone number with an instruction for the burglar to "text only". For the rest of the film we're left to watch an endless back and forth barrage of text messages as the plot and its various unimpactful twists and turns are literally spelled out before our eyes.

Despite clocking in at a mere 80 minutes, Bruchon's storytelling is so laboured that his movie feels twice that length. There's a potentially cracking thriller in this premise, but it would require a filmmaker with more visual invention than Bruchon offers here, and it would probably need to take place in a pre-cellphone era.

The Woman with Leopard Shoes plays online at the Glasgow Film Festival from March 5th to 8th.

2021 movie reviews