Sidewalk Stories Screen 8 articles

Sidewalk Stories

1989

Sidewalk Stories Poster
  • As a Chaplin tribute, this mostly illuminates how hard it is to do Chaplin. While clearly talented, Lane proves not quite committed enough, most likely since he’s not a confident enough physical comedian to let his set-pieces play out to their natural conclusions. Thus a lot of potentially brilliant scenarios are abortively cut off, settling for knowing chuckles rather than boffo moments.

  • Lane tiptoes between effervescent physical comedy and grim documentary realism, placing his Chaplin-inspired gags in abandoned buildings, homeless shelters, and frostbitten city streets. The juxtaposition between the film’s silent cinema influences and contemporary urban setting are best experienced in the soundtrack, which shifts between traditional orchestral cues and pre-Seinfeld slap bass riffs.

  • The fact that this could communicate its every ounce of exposition via pantomime makes me wonder just how much superfluous dialogue is clogging up more formally timid comedies. How many lousy screenplays could have their word counts slashed in half if the actors could only mug and pratfall as eloquently as those in Sidewalk Stories' ensemble?

  • The urge to critique Sidewalk Stories as too cute for its content surrenders pretty early to the filmmaker's winningly pointed sense of humor. By withholding actual dialogue (including intertitles), Lane is able to make a number of points both sophisticated and, despite odds, damn funny about poverty.

  • An homage to Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Sidewalk Stories, like the classic American silents it celebrates (a salute further enhanced by Lane’s soulful, Buster Keaton–esque eyes), is sweet and tender but never maudlin. With a light touch, Lane foregrounds not only the prevalence of homelessness in the city (most powerfully in the film’s closing minutes) but also the humiliations of classism and racism.

  • ...The effect is startling, but till then the quietly radical nature of Sidewalk Stories lies in the dialectical tension between its whimsically nostalgic formal approach and its bold representation of pressing contemporary issues. While The Artist was set in the safely fossilized world of silent-era filmmaking, there’s something genuinely strange about seeing New York—one of the world’s most famously rambunctious cities—drained of sound and color.

  • It’s a great, lovable, monumental film that’ll finally get its due. You might never have heard of it, but thanks to this rediscovery, restoration and rerelease, that’ll never be the case again.

  • There's an economy to [its] direction that threatens to bypass the elegant simplicity of silent cinema for merely functional visual storytelling. But the didacticism of Sidewalk Stories lies in its metatextual commentary. To see Lane enjoying tender scenes with his child is to see a void in silent movies retroactively filled, a racial context consciously and unconsciously omitted from the classic era, and film history in general.

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