Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stick with Julie Benasra's new documentary GOD SAVE MY SHOES: It does get better

Initially, it may look like a documentary that only Imedla Marcos could love, but I suggest that you don't give in to the urge to depart until you've seen at least a half-hour of the intriguing, if initially annoying, film GOD SAVE MY SHOES, from first-time filmmaker Julie Benasra (shown below). "Is this a product of the World-Wide Shoe Association?" (surely there is one), you may be thinking, as a plethora of testimony, adding up to oh-lordy-we-loves-our-shoes, springs delightedly from the mouth of nearly every kind of woman you can imagine. (Well, at least from those ladies who can afford to buy, annually, a lot of shoes.)

Our first speaker, Beth Shak, a professional poker player from Bryn Mawr, PA (shown below) tells us she once had 1,400 pair of shoes -- until she ran out of space and had to give away a few hundred of them.

Another woman (Kelly Rowland, ex of Destiny's Child) -- claims to be a "shoe mommie" who names many of her shoe "children." Yikes.

Around the time that another voice claims shoes to be something utterly "primal," you may feel like heading for the hills. And then you meet a charmer named Baroness Monica von Neumann (identified as a "philanthropist" who's been known to pay thousands of dollars for a single pair of shoes), followed by what can only be described as a "dumb blond" who shakes her head negatively and covers her ears, as she hears a newscaster lamenting the state of the economy.

Holy shit, you think: U.S. Republicans, with their misogynistic and idiotic faith-based platform, should get hold of this movie and run with it, for women have rarely looked so foolish and pointless as here. But then, a little at a time, they (and their movie) begin to look somewhat more intelligent and enticing.

Part of the long and interesting history of shoes, shown a bit later, is thoughtful fun and even relatively genuine, I think -- as is the later discussion of exactly which shoe designer actually invented the stiletto heel. (The movie alternates credit between Roger Vivier and Salvatore Ferrugamo, though the definition of the stiletto as "woman's quest for femininity and independence" might prove questionable.

We hear from various shoe designers -- Manolo Blahnik (above), Pierre Hardy, Walter Steiger (below) -- and celebrities from Fergie to the Ferrugamo empire to burlesque queen Dita Von Teese. Even that Baroness begins to sound intelligent, and her visual essay on how to walk correctly in heels is exemplary and sexy. Male designers, we learn, seem to give less thought to comfort (no surprise) than to charisma.

Toward the conclusion we get into the subject of shoes and sex, and then shoes and fetishism, and finally shoes and power. And while little we hear will set the intellectual world ablaze, at least most of it is interesting, with that portion by Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of the BATA Shoe Museum in Toronto, proving the most cogent and useful.

God Save My Shoes (only 71 minutes long, from Caïd Productions, with the participation of Canal +) opens in New York City this Friday, March 30, at the Quad Cinema. If there will be other openings in other U.S. cities, the film's web site is not forthcoming with any info.

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