THE SHOE (1998) [Feature]

Latvia (MIFF 1999 , International Panorama)
Director: Laila Pakalnina

In the late 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the white, sandy beaches of Latvia were part of the Soviet Union's frontier—well guarded and well defended. Every night, Soviet tractors would comb Latvia's coast leaving fine grooves in the sand. Trespassers of any kind— spies, defectors, invaders—who might cross the beach would leave telltale tracks and prompt a thorough investigation.

Upon this fact, and a discarded shoe, hangs Laila Pakalnina's charming stupendously, photographed film. The discovery of a woman's shoe in the sand causes the sounding of alarms: orders are barked, troops dispatched and an inquiry begun. The absurd military overreaction and the seriousness with which the three man investigating team take their task provides a delightfully humorous tone to Pakalnina's film. This trio of bumblers traipse around the local town searching for the Cinderella that fits their slipper.

As was the case with her Cannes award-winning shorts, The Ferry and The Mail, The Shoe is a cinematographic tour de force of gorgeous black and white images that often have a static, still photography look. Composition is as much a character in the film as the people that populate the frame. The languid pace is offset by Ihe soldiers' inept activities, the audience, not unlike the townstolk, laughing at their ridiculous efforts.

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