chapter  6
16 Pages

The higher heel

Cinema would have to wait until 1981 for Marlene Gorris’s film A Question of Silence to realise explicitly the male castration anxieties attached to the stiletto. This seemingly innocuous item of ladies’ fashion was elongated and refined from the modest ‘court’ to the ultimate pinnacle of design achievement between 1947 and 1962. In this period, this shoe condenses a nucleus of meanings: it speaks of the relaxation of post-war austerity, modernity, female consumption, feminine aspiration and desire, but also the dangerous association of gangland weapon, the Italian ‘other’, and the troublesome eruption of the unknowable element of female sexuality. The stiletto recurs like a leitmotif in crime films of the period. It will do so in this chapter, for while it cannot drive and control meaning, it is nevertheless a site/sight of ambivalence: resistance and recuperation, the pointed heel of deviance, delinquency and the modern woman.1