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Film / Sidewalk Stories

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Sidewalk Stories is a 1989 independent film written, directed by, and starring Charles Lane.

It is a black-and-white silent movie, set amongst the poverty and homelessness of Greenwich Village. Lane plays a sidewalk artist barely avoiding starvation by drawing pictures of passers-by, including an attractive young woman (Sandye Wilson) who is drawn to him. He lives in the basement of an abandoned, condemned church. One night the artist's life is disrupted when he sees a man murdered in an alley. The robbers run away, leaving behind the man's toddler child, still in her stroller. The artist somewhat reluctantly takes responsiblity for the abandoned girl, and they bond.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because this film is basically a remake of Charlie Chaplin's silent classic The Kid. Compare The Artist, a 2011 silent film with a similar Retreaux style.


  • Aside Glance: Two.
    • When the artist finds out that the attractive woman doesn't just live in the clothing store, she owns it, he shoots the camera a look of astonishment.
    • When the woman holds back the man's coat as he's leaving, and suggests that she stay the night, he actually steps out of the scene and towards the camera, which he gives a meaningful stare. An imagined sex scene follows.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: The artist actually pulls the knife out of the father's back. Nothing actually comes of this, although the artist at least is paranoid for a while about getting arrested. This may also explain why he doesn't turn the little girl over to the police.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: A rather grim portrait of life among the homeless in New York.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The artist manages to return the little girl to her mother safe and sound, but very little much has changed for him; his business isn't doing well and he's without a home...but thankfully, the pretty woman finds him, and it may seem that maybe she'll take him in.
  • The Bully: A much, much larger artist that sets up shop right next to the protagonist and tries to scare him off the corner.
  • Conflict Ball: The hoods who murdered the little girl's father show up again towards the end of the movie and kidnap the child. Earlier, they saw The Artist making money from doodles that the Child drew. They try to get her to draw in the cab after they kidnap her, but she doesn't want to, because they're meanies.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: After wheeling the little girl's stroller out of the alley following the murder, the artist leaves the stroller on the sidewalk and walks away. He pauses, then comes back and gets her.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The rival, bully artist mistakes the attractive woman's flirtatious glances as being for him. When his back is turned to stare at her, the artist sets fire to his easel.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A shot early in the film establishes the setting, panning down a Greenwich Village street where various street performers and hustlers hang out, ending with the artist at the end of the sidewalk.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: How the artist finally finds out where the little girl comes from. She spots her own face on a milk carton.
  • Fanservice: Did the movie really need to give the attractive woman a topless scene wherein the man's imagining them having sex? No, not really.
  • Imagine Spot: Two.
    • When the artist finally realizes how dumb it was to pick up the murder knife, he imagines himself put in prison.
    • When the attractive woman invites the artist and the little girl to stay the night, he then imagines a raucous sex scene, before politely declining.
  • Jump Cut: Used for edits a couple of times, making for mildly startling moments, like when a shot of the man futzing with his curtain suddenly cuts to the man sitting down on his blankets.
  • Maybe Ever After: The artist finally leaves the attractive woman's fancy apartment, but not before they share a long kiss. She loses track of him, eventually finding him sitting around in a crowd of New York homeless. She gives him a sandwich. The film ends.
  • Nameless Narrative: As was very common for films from silent movie days. The little girl's name is eventually revealed towards the end when she sees her own picture on a milk carton. Other than that, no names.
  • Police Lineup: A darkly comic version of one. When the artist is pictured getting arrested for the father's murder, he imagines himself in a police lineup—sandwiched between two white men in three-piece suits, while he is wearing an Institutional Apparel striped convict outfit.
  • The Remake: The film borrows the premise of The Kid as well as some set pieces, like the child's guardian charging in pursuit of people that try to take the kid away.
  • Retraux: A black-and-white silent film made in 1989. Yup.
  • Shell Game: A three-card monte dealer is one of the hustlers on the artist's block. He deprives the little girl's father of some cash.
  • Silence Is Golden: This film is almost more silent that films of the silent era, because, unlike virtually all films from silent movie days, Lane did not use any title cards. The whole film is told through images.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The pretty woman tracks the artist down, finding him in a gathering of homeless people in a park. Suddenly, pretty much out of nowhere and about a minute before the movie ends, the voices of all the homeless people can be heard, some of them begging passers-by for change, some of them mentally ill and raving.
  • Street Performer: A whole block of them, including street musicians, a magician, a dancer, and a ventriloquist, as well as the artist on the corner.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The little girl's no-good father smacks her in the face before taking her money to go gambling.
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses: The artist resorts to this when the much bigger rival artist is about to pummel him, whipping out glasses that he apparently had staged for that purpose.