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24 JUL, 21:30, Teatro Municipal Sala Um

    Lois Weber
Lois Weber, 1916
USA, FIC, 00:53:00
Putting ourselves in Eva Meyer’s shoes – a young saleswoman in a department store, whose salary supports her entire family – is the proposal of director Lois Weber. To put ourselves in Eva’s shoes, therefore, to step into the shoes of the eternal feminine, which goes far beyond the sensitivity and fragility of the “second sex”, as Simone de Beauvoir called it, is to see Eva Meyer’s world in the first person. What story are we being told? That of a poor girl whose lascivious and lazy father spends his days lying in bed reading penny dreadfuls, drinking beer and exhaling the smoke from his pipe in a room whose door is always open. That of a girl who has three younger sisters and a mother who does her utmost to prevent the total disintegration of the home, even if she has to forbid the 3 dollars that her daughter, the only incoming in the house, needs to buy a lousy pair of shoes. These are the shoes that we put on when the film begins. They are old shoes that contrast with Eva’s young body. Condemnation-shoes announced on a card at the beginning of the film, which tells us that Eva “sold herself for a pair of shoes”. Poverty-shoes, as a symbol, and at the same time literal-shoes, material ones, shoes whose worn-out soles leave splinters stuck in the feet of the young girl. Shoes whose cardboard, with which Eva is retreading the soles, becomes defunct on rainy mornings. Shame-shoes of a working class that looks at itself in the mirror, assaulted by insomnia and by the surrealist traces of a monstrous hand that confirms the conviction: Eva’s young body will also be used.
On a formal level, the grandeur of the shots and a refined sense of composition, evident from the opening of the film, find details of a quasi-surrealism that intersects with an over-realism. Two moments: the plan at ground level, the rain falls heavily and Eva’s shoes advance with the bow made of a rammed hull, like a ship about to founder; Eva in bed, the whites of her eyes contrast with the night of the proletariat, and a giant, vampiric hand comes to smother her – on the skin of that hand, tattooed, the word poverty. But formalism is all political in Shoes, and what today is said to be “gender issues” or “fracturing social themes” is very clear in the whiteness of Eva’s eyes: prostitution as the only way out, with no room for any coming-of-age.

Lois Weber is a landmark not because she is a woman who films women with a view on women and on issues that directly affect the women of her time: she is a great filmmaker. And Shoes is a rare film, rarely shown in Portugal and which appears here in a unique and singular encounter with the music of another woman, the Spanish harpist Angélica Salvi. (LL)
PRODUCTION Bluebird Photoplays, Universal Film Manufacturing Company ; Lois Weber, Phillips Smalley COPY CONTACT Eye Filmmuseum,, SCRIPT Lois Weber, Stella Wynne Herron PHOTOGRAPHY Stephen S. Norton, King D. Gray, Allen G. Siegler MAIN ACTORS Mary MacLaren, Harry Griffith, Jessie Arnold, William Mong, Lina Basquette