Bracknell Film Society Selection

First of four shows this month


To book a ticket for this and forthcoming BFS screenings please contact the SHP Box Office on 01344 484123 or click the logo below to book via the SHP website.
Tickets: Mon-Thur evenings & all matinees £9.10, Conc £8.10, Members £7.50
Fri-Sun evenings £9.10, Members £7.50
BFS Members £7.10 for BFS films - you may be asked to show your membership card. Phone reservations can be held for 4 days.

Tuesday 8th January 7.30pm




Director: Charles Lane, US, 1989, 100 minutes
Cast: Charles Lane, Nicole Alysia, Tom Alpern
A street artist rescues a toddler after her father is stabbed. A rare outing
for a film Michel Hazanavicius cites as inspiration for The Artist.
With all the elements of the great silent comedies: physical grace,
perfect timing and sly social commentary, it's very, very funny.


Shot quickly and cheaply in the winter of 1987, this consistently imaginative and enjoyable film follows a homeless Greenwich Village street artist (played by Lane) who forms a bond with a toddler after he witnesses her father being murdered. While evading the police (his fingerprints are on the knife), he cares for the young innocent, and embarks on a tentative, and touchingly improbable, romance with a beautiful businesswoman (Sandye Wilson) who comes to sit for a painting. Inspired by Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, the film moves with a clean, well-paced narrative, leaning on Marc Marder’s flexible score—which runs the gamut from lush orchestral arrangements, to faux mariachi, and pre-Seinfeld slap-bass riffs—for emotional shading. The diminutive, wide-eyed Lane is an expressive physical comedian, while his relationship with the toddler (played by Lane’s own daughter, which explains their magnetic bond) is especially moving.

Yet Sidewalk Stories is far flintier than any top-line synopsis might suggest, and its re-release feels particularly timely given the continuing plight of New York’s multitudinous homeless. The issue of New York’s class and wealth divide, even before today’s extremes, is made apparent from the film’s opening, which cuts from Wall Street types going about their frantic commutes, to the story’s central locale: the bustling strip on Sixth Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets next to the basketball courts and opposite the Waverly Cinema (now IFC Center). Here tramps and street artists, including Lane’s never-named character, are hustling and grifting to survive, and it is largely in this world that the film remains. Reminiscent of the unnamed protagonist of Invisible Man, Lane’s artist holes up on the fringes of society—inside an abandoned church—stealing electricity to illuminate his spartan existence. In the film’s final moments, ambient sound unexpectedly bleeds through, and we hear the clamoring of the collected homeless—suddenly, literally, given a voice.

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. Within this monochrome metropolis, Lane engages with the issue of discrimination on the basis of race, and frequently populates the frame with political messages: a huge banner, behind the sidewalk’s row of street performers, calling for the preservation of the Greenwich Village Waterfront; or a Keith Haring poster bearing an anti-Apartheid message, prominently displayed in the Upper West Side apartment of the artist’s love interest.

In his 1993 book Framing Blackness: The African American Image on Film, Ed Guerrero astutely places Sidewalk Stories alongside the likes of Wendell B. Harris’s Chameleon Street (89) and Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (90) in the small band of artistically daring films of the era to offer refreshingly original visions of black life.

Extracted from at article by Ashley Clark in Film Comment magazine published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. October 30, 2013