Film Review: God Save My Shoes

Fluffy footwear documentary plays mostly like a luxe shopping promo.

Women’s obsession with footwear, famously celebrated in Sex and the City, is the focus of this frivolously diverting, if overlong (even at 70 minutes) and repetitive, documentary by Julie Benasra. Benasra has certainly done her work, interviewing scores of shoe-besotted folk, ranging from famous designers like a campily droll Manolo Blahnik and reigning fashion king Christian Louboutin, to “serious” experts with titles like “Cognitive Behavior Therapist” weighing in with their opinions, to avid consumers (burlesque queen Dita Von Teese; the quite gorgeous and funny drag performer Shequida, who abhors flats; singer Kelly Rowland, who lapses into an almost infantile state while extolling her shoe collection, and others who boast of possessing pairs in the thousands). Indeed, the only usual suspect missing from God Save My Shoes seems to be Imelda Marcos herself, and I’d just bet Benasra tried to get her.

Even in these economically hard times, women keep buying shoes, at the rate of 20 million pairs a year in the U.S., averaging seven to eight pairs annually, making it a $40 billion business. The main reason seems to go beyond any and all practical considerations, having far more to do with the need for glamour and that touch of personally transforming fantasy which the mere purchase of a kicky pair of kicks can bestow. Benasra decidedly keeps her focus on the so-called one-percent here, not bothering much with average gals who would consider a C-note a lot to pay to be shod, like Beth Shak, a professional poker player who owns 1,200 pairs, or the comically named “Baroness Monica von Neumann,” a black diva who demonstrates the proper way to walk in her pricey heels, inspired by what streetwalkers wear on the prowl.

The stiletto heel emerges as the real star of the movie, that outrageous instrument of torture that gained prominence after World War II through sexpot pinup images. Now vertiginously—not to mention perilously—designed to be five inches, if not more, in height, its appeal stems from the way it magically turns any woman’s body into an approximation of a Barbie doll through the posture one must assume to achieve proper balance and not keel over. (Indeed, Barbie’s feet, from her 1958 inception, have always been permanently molded with an arch to fit into stilettos.) There’s a brief, heated argument as to who exactly invented the stiletto, with names like Roger Vivier, Ferragamo and Perugia tossed about, and that is about as intellectually weighty as things get.

Some actual shoe history does get mentioned, like those amazing chopines, dating back to the 15th century, which added actual feet to one’s height. One wishes more of this had been included, as all those ladies’ rhapsodies about naughtily feeling like a kid in a candy store in shoe salons, or even like—giggle-giggle—hookers in their pricey Versaces, become more than a bit redundant.