a wide shot down an alley of a man in a suit talking to a woman in a dress and boots  while their shadows stretch across the brick wallalr

The Chinese Shoe
(El zapato chino)

Directed by Cristián Sánchez.
With Felisa González, Andrés Quintana, Fernando Andía.
Chile, 1979, DCP, black & white, 72 min.
Spanish with English subtitles.
DCP source: Cineteca Nacional de Chile

Shot clandestinely on a shoestring budget, the second feature by prolific filmmaker and theorist Cristián Sánchez bears an uncanny, yet ultimately only vague, resemblance to Taxi Driver (1976) with its story of a cabbie who spontaneously rescues a young woman from a brothel only to develop an obsessive yet platonic love for her. By keeping all violence and sexuality deliberately off-screen Sánchez, however, shapes his film as a darkly absurdist fable of desire anxiously displaced and never realized. Making radical use of voiceover to fracture time and grant an interiority to characters that often seem impervious to conventional reason, Sánchez channels the spirit of Buñuel and Kafka to animate The Chinese Shoe with a sense of inertia that renders vivid and strange the paranoia and fear of life under dictatorship. The furtive qualities of Sánchez’s characters and narrative are given a further charge by the film’s documentary yet unreal images of Santiago as a hauntingly empty city, not unlike Atget’s photographs of Paris described by Walter Benjamin as having the uncanny aura of a crime scene.

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