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    Film Comment: Violet Lucca
    March 03, 2018 | March/April 2018 Issue (p. 74)

    Dramatizing and debunking the social myths of the day (such as the canard that shopgirls only wasted their pay on frivolous items), Weber fashions a lyrical statement about life in American that never ceased to be relevant: a woman who isn't exceptional is still just as deserving of our attention.

  • On the surface, SHOES is a work of hardscrabble social realism, but soon enough the materialist miserablism and real-time depiction of household chores suggest nothing less than the JEANNE DIELMAN of its day. The single-mindedness of Weber's portrayal of economic and physical deprivation in SHOES, largely to the exclusion of subplots or comic relief, stands in stark contrast to the assembly-line studio films that would follow in her wake.

  • The performances in the film are generally good, though most of the players work in the broad style common in silent movies. Mong leers, Arnold broadly flirts and overemphasizes the new watch she has on after a night with Charlie, and Witting’s grief over Eva’s fallen status is overdone. Griffith, however, seems very comfortable as an oblivious idler who takes his privileges for granted, reading at the dinner table and spending whatever he wants on a new book.

  • To be truly poor is to have no room for error, and the film raises the event of a rainy morning that threatens our heroine’s scrupulously cutout cardboard insoles to the level of tragedy. I don’t like to be hasty in my judgements, but a century is probably enough time to declare Shoes a masterpiece.

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