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Foreign Comedy - Germany - The Shoe

Buy The Shoe
Igor Buraks, Vadims Grossmans, Vilke Liman
Written and directed by Laila Pakalnina
Latvia / Germany 1998
Russian / Latvian with English subtitles
78 minutes
Black and white
Facets Multimedia

The Shoe, an official selection of the Cannes, Toronto, and Berlin International Film Festivals is a very beautifully film comedy of the absurd. Fans of weird humor and foreign movies will certainly like this movie and its Ingmar Bergman like visual approach and pacing. This is also a very photographic film where the camera lingers on a visually interesting frame. Those who like small story greater meaning will enjoy this Cinderella meets Soviet paranoia in 1950s Latvia.

In a little Latvian village a tractor combs the beach every night so anyone coming in from the sea will leave a trace. When Sidurov, Juhann, and Vladimir, three soldiers on their morning beach patrol find a woman's shoe in the sand all hell breaks lose as the Soviet contingent goes looking for the invading force of one. This is a serious mission and this is reinforced by constant reminders and threats from the upper echelons. To fulfill this task, they are accompanied in their search by the only German shepherd army dog that does not follow orders.

The humor in The Shoe is very subtle although there is a broad farce moment when a man calls the soldiers up to his apartment and they force his wife to try on the shoe. In reality, the story is a thin veil used by director Laila Pakalnina in her study of life in Latvia under Soviet rule, the life and work habits of the people, and how most had a passive, ignore them and they will go away attitude.

Pakalnina often uses her movie camera as a still photographer would and this creates a very humorous scene where the soldiers search an apartment building, hear a noise behind a door and barge in only to find the occupants posing silently as in a tableau.

The Shoe is a very subtle and enjoyable movie that your average foreign movie lover will certainly enjoy.

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