REVIEW: The Woman With Leopard Shoes (2020)

dir. Alexis Bruchon.

When hired by an anonymous woman a thief (Paul Bruchon, brother of director Alexis) breaks into a country villa to steal a box of incriminating evidence. But when the homeowner returns early – along with guests – the thief finds himself forced into hiding, desperately trying to escape whilst piecing together why he was recruited for this job in the first place.

There’s something beautifully economic to the setup of Bruchon’s assured debut that recalls Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) – though in that film two killers conceal a freshly murdered corpse before a party whilst here the hiding man is very much alive. Shot in black-and-white and almost entirely within a single room, it’s a testament to Bruchon’s skill (as director, writer, editor and composer) that the majority of the 80 minute run-time is consistently tense.

Paul Bruchon also deserves credit, being mostly on screen alone (though other characters appear they are largely represented as shadows or shoes glimpsed from the thief’s various hiding places), his furrowed brow shot in gorgeous chiaroscuro that communicates the mounting anxiety.

One limitation is – perhaps unfairly – with some of the translation: the thief never speaks but frequently texts and – despite being shot in French – these are written in slightly melodramatic English, their tone at odds with the more fluent cinematic language. So too the plot becomes increasingly difficult to sustain in the third act, the culmination of which is not entirely satisfactory.

But nevertheless this is a bold noir, swinging for the fences and deftly executed in a way that far outstrips its miniscule budget. For this Bruchon deserves much respect, and the promise of what he might do next is tantalising.

Tim Coleman

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