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Sidewalk Stories

Charles Lane

A young artist living in New York, on the fringes of the financial district and its rushing crowds, tries to make a living sketching passers-by on the street. He survives on his meager means and has found refuge in an abandoned building. One night, on the corner of a back alley, he finds a little girl whose father has just been murdered. While struggling to take care of her, he meets a young rich woman who immediately falls in love with this awkward couple.

Twenty years before The Artist, Sidewalk Stories portrays the friendship of a tramp and a child, in a moving and funny homage to Chaplin’s The Kid. Both witty and tender, Charles Lane’s gorgeous black and white comedy pays tribute to the silent film era, with a score composed by Marc Marder. Charles Lane accurately captures the daily life of the homeless population of New York with a cinéma vérité approach that undoubtedly reminds of Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery. His film is also an important work of the New African-American cinema of the 1980s, along with Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood, that conveyed a strong political message. Finally, with this gripping tale of the underprivileged and its beautiful portrayal of the city, Sidewalk Stories uniquely draws on social satire to deliver a timeless message of generosity and love.

“LET’S GET THIS PART RIGHT UP FRONT – SIDEWALK STORIES, THE FIRST FEATURE-LENGTH MOVIE BY CHARLES LANE, IS A FLAT-OUT BRILLIANT PIECE OF WORK.” New York Times

“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.” – Slant

“…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.” – Film Comment

Charles Lane on Sidewalk Stories:

“Sidewalk Stories was conceived on the night of November 6th, 1988 on a subway somewhere in the Bronx after the Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Don Lalonde boxing championship bout. I was heading home after the match on the graveyard shift, sharing a subway car with a collection of misfits from the fringes of society with nowhere else to go. A homeless black man slid over to me, presumably to ask for money. But no! He asked completely out of the blue, almost as if he was a mind reader, who had won the fight. I felt my heart melting. I excitedly described the details of another courageous victory for Sugar Ray. We continued to talk on the ride to Times Square, and as we parted, I gave this homeless boxing fan all the pocket money I had – one dollar and one token. My previous thoughts and emotions about the homeless “problem” crystallized around the plain truth that every homeless person is an individual, not just a faceless part of the undifferentiated mass of society’s rejects. As I rushed down the cold sidewalk to my warm house and sleeping family, I saw a pair of feet sticking out of a cardboard box. Two months later in the dead of winter, Sidewalk Stories went into production.”

Showing

  • 2/23 | 6:00PM
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