Quiet Shoes

Tacoma noir at its finest

By Rev. Adam McKinney on June 16, 2010

There are eight million stories in the City of Destiny. This is one of them.

In February of 2006, Isaac Olsen got together with Kurt Kendall and Dale Phillips of Girl Trouble at a deserted farmhouse in Orting. They had broken into the house for their first day of shooting; the house needed to come first and the shoot needed to be quick, because there was no way of knowing how long the house would be around.

This was the beginning of Quiet Shoes. Over the next several years, working around the performing schedule of Girl Trouble, Isaac Olsen's year-long absence from Tacoma and budgetary concerns, the film would eventually take shape.

Directed by Olsen, written by Olsen and Kendall, and starring Dale Phillips, the film centers around a private dick by the name of Savage - Rick Savage. When a suspicious-looking dame enters his life, the dick is thrown into a world of intrigue, cigarettes, shadows, tough guys with iron claws, upstart newsies and crooked cops. In a word: noir.

In fashioning this world, Olsen brilliantly utilizes downtown and industrial Tacoma. Around every corner an alleyway looms, and on every horizon great plumes of smoke lurk. It's a thrill to see Tacoma finally used to all its gritty potential.

In keeping with the film's Tacoma pride, many familiar local faces populate Quiet Shoes, including (among others) the entirety of Girl Trouble, most notably Kurt Kendall's dual roles as an antiques dealer and a (possibly imaginary) farmer; fellow local filmmakers The Woodsmen as a jazz band; Dick Rossetti as the narrator; and Red Hex's Sam Olsen as the young detective who may be more than he seems.

Though the film was made for less than a thousand dollars, it is chock-full of special visuals. It speaks to the ingenuity of the filmmakers that, with so little funding, they are able to create such interesting effects. Consider, for example, a shot that shows the point of view of a hand as it is clapping against another.

Quiet Shoes is dominated by surreal, Guy Maddin-esque visual effects. Sometimes the effects are grotesque, and sometimes they're whimsical. Often, the style seems to be evoking a cartoon, as when Savage retrieves from his coat pocket a gun the size of a moped.

"We did the classic film noir, you know?" says Isaac Olsen. "We didn't want to betray that. But it's kind of existential, too. The story isn't necessarily the driving force of the thing. It's episodic."

It was interesting, having seen the film, to find out that they considered Quiet Shoes to be mostly straight film noir. While all the elements of noir are represented, the film is much funnier and far more bizarre than your Maltese Falcon types. The running gag where Rick Savage is never allowed to have a cigarette, the uselessness of Arturo's treacherous claw, the suggestion that someone could have committed suicide via filing cabinet - all of these things scream parody, but parody of a loving kind.

It's the plan of the filmmakers to shop Quiet Shoes around to the major film festivals. Catch it before it blows this gin joint - off once more into the shadows.

Quest Shoes world premiere

Saturday, June 19, 7 p.m., $12
Rialto Theater, 3105 Ninth St., Tacoma