A burglar (Paul Bruchon) is hired by a mysterious woman to break into the home of a lawyer and steal a small box from his study. Having never seen the face of the woman, and only her leopard print shoes, the burglar doesn’t know the reason he’s been tasked with the assignment or indeed the identity of the woman who’s hired him. After breaking into the house and retrieving the box, the burglar is trapped inside the study when a large group of people arrive at the house for a party. The burglar soon realises something more is at play after finding a dead body in the study cupboard and he’s left to uncover what’s going on before he gets caught.
‘The Woman With The Leopard Shoes’ is a wonderfully fresh and inventive film from Alexis Bruchon. Filmed in black-and-white and with very little dialogue – the burglar doesn’t utter a word on-screen for the film’s duration – Bruchon’s film is a taut and intense thriller set pretty much in a single location. Given that we’ve all been cooped up at home for the past year, that claustrophobic setting is all the more effective.
Among the guests at the party is the woman in the leopard print shoes that hired the burglar, and after slipping her number to him the action moves to the screen of the burglar’s phone. Now this could have been where the film fell apart but thanks to Bruchon’s skilful direction, it holds your attention. The slowly building score helps to unsettle you as the burglar tries to understand why he was hired and why he’s found a dead man in a cupboard. Utilising what’s around him in the study, he desperately searches for answers while constantly afraid he’s going to be caught.
There’s something Hitchcockian about the film’s set-up and that appealed to me very much. It’s so hard to convey genuine tension when there’s just one person on screen but Bruchon manages to do that. In part, that’s thanks to the performance of Paul Bruchon, the director’s brother, who delivers plenty of emotion through his facial expressions. I genuinely found myself on the edge of my seat during the moments where the burglar had to press himself to the floor under a table to avoid being seen by party goers. We see through his eyes on many occasions, and that really brings home the tight spaces he’s confined to.
The story unravels in a satisfying and surprising way, with the audience getting little clues and hints. I found this storytelling device hugely satisfying and I could barely look away from the screen. It helps that the film looks stunning too with the black-and-white really drawing out that film noir feel that Bruchon clearly aimed for.
‘The Women With The Leopard Shoes’ is a huge achievement for Bruchon and it deserves to all the appreciation that should be coming its way following this screening as part of Arrow Video FrightFest at the Glasgow Film Festival. At a very lean 80 minutes, the film draws you in and holds your attention until the final moments. If you like your films tense with a slow unravelling mystery at the centre, you definitely need to check out this fantastic film.
Cast: Paul Bruchon, Pauline Morel, Philippe Bruchon, Anaele Pelisson, Blandine Boucheron Director: Alexis Bruchon Writer: Alexis Bruchon Certificate: 18 Duration: 80 mins