Director: Charles Lane
ONE OF THE REAL SURPRISES of last year's Cannes Film Festival was Charles Lane's Sidewalk Stories, a silent, low- budget black and white film which evokes the great silent comedy tradition and combines it with the immediacy of the nightly news. Lane, an actor-writer-director from New York, came up with the idea for the film last November when he ran into a homeless person after watching the Sugar Ray Leonard boxing match. The encounter, he said, reminded him of how deaf we are to the pleas of the homeless. That night, he conceived the story about a homeless street artist who adopts an abandoned child and tries to keep her safe while he searches for her mother.
Lane shot the film in two weeks in February, showed a rough cut to Cannes official in March, and was awarded with a standing ovation at its world premiere in May. Working with cine-matographer Bill Dill, Lane has created some stunning black and white imagery for Sidewalk Stories. Sometimes the camera is in fluid motion, other times the camera remains static for minutes at a time, the characters moving in and out of the frame. Going against convention, Lane has used close-ups very sparingly, coming up with other, more subtle ways to generate emotion. There's also a certain lightness in the film, a sugar coating if you will, which provides a way for the audience to find their way in. But once in, Lane nails them with the heavier issue. And his response to why he chose to make a silent film: "We don't hear the homeless anyway." - Toronto Festival of Festivals programme, 1989