The Red Shoes [1948]

red-shoes-the-img-3971“Take off the red shoes”

Director : Micheal Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Writer : Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Hans Christian Anderson (fairy tale), Keith Winter

Cast : Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook

Story :  This is a pretty cute film, some would raise an eyebrow for this statement, but I will explain later why. Primarily the story is about dancing, the need to dance and the harshness of reality.  The story starts unfolding when Victoria Page, a young socialite answers the big Boris Lermontov’s question “Why do you want to dance?” by saying because she must. In a few days she is called in for an audition in his ballet company, at the same time Julian Craster, a rising composer is given a chance there too.

After the first ballerina leaves due marriage, they are offered a chance to shine by transforming The Red shoes, an Anderson fairy tale into a ballet. The tale is about a young girl who puts on a red shoe which won’t allow her to stop dancing, she keeps dancing and dancing until her dead.

Of course the ballet is a great success and makes both of them stars, and the two of them fall in love during rehearsal, and thus jealousy rises in the company. At first I thought Boris is jealous of Julian because he fell for Vicky too, but I was so far off. For Boris the perfect prima ballerina has nothing else in her life but dance, the undeniable urge to dance, and a husband or any other activity can not interfere with that or the ballet will suffer. But being young and in love they marry and leave behind the company.

Boris bans them The Red Shoes and takes it off the company’s repertoire. It will never be played again, at least not without Vicky as the star. And now we come back to Victoria’s answer in the beginning…

What I Liked :

– this is a long and extremely complex movie, and now I will explain why I find it cute. I’m just trying to figure out how to do it without giving away too may spoilers. It is a story in a story or rather like story came to life or even more the message is shown to us through the movie, or like seeing two stories layered on top of each other with a minor time distance. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make much sense but I really don’t want to give away this aspect because in my view this makes this movie one of the most outstanding pieces of cinema I have ever seen. Yes, I use this statement or similar ones quite often, but this is the case. The Red Shoes is a masterpiece.

– I can only say Emeric Pressburger and Micheal Powell ( the Archer team) did it again, this is a magnificent study of art and dedication.

– there is a pretty long ballet sequence in the movie, we are shown the ballet (The Red Shoes) and I can only say WOW, astounding colors and backgrounds it just rips your eyeballs, it is that beautiful; and the accompanying music, ahh. This movie just caresses all your senses. So kudos to Brian Easdale(music) and Hein Heckroth (who made 120 painting for that ballet sequence) and of course Arthur Lawson (cinematography).

– now a little about the performances. All three main characters were great, and of course the side characters as well. But I have three person in my mind I want to talk about.

1. Leonide Massine who plays Grisha Ljubov, the company’s chief choreographer. I just loved every second of his screen time, he absolutely brought life, he had an aura that was capable to travel through time form 1948 to 2013 and make an impression on me.  Magnificent actor

2. Nobody can pull off a dramatic face like Moira Shearer. She is gorgeous and a fine actor, but she shined  in every scene where she had to suffer. It felt so real you got the sense that feeling is coming from her deepest chamber. Probably as a dancer she could identify so perfectly with the role and conflict of Vicky, but anyhow she was a terrific choice.

3. Marius Goring. He had such a powerful face. I really don’t know how to explain why he is great or greater than the rest. Just the features on his face spoke for him even when he just stood silently, his whole body and features, and just every inch of his self moved, better danced perfectly with every emotion.

– oh and I almost forgot the beginning sequences, marvelous pictures and one more thing, there is a scene that reminds you of a lost era. For his “audition” Julian plays the piano while Boris is having breakfast, beautiful and atmospheric.

– I can honestly say this type of movie is not for my taste, as you can see from my other reviews I enjoy totally the opposite, but this one got me. It’s a marvelous feature that is so complex I only just managed to scratch the surface with this shallow review so please go and watch it to feel this movie for yourself

What I Did not Like :

– it’s long, very long, and the first 30-50 minutes (the sort of introduction needed to understand the emotions and life philosophy) feels a bit old and dragged, I think we would have got the picture about the characters if it was a bit shorter.

– almost at the end it has a bit of unrealistic scene, but it was necessary for that last line which gave that tragic realization about the red shoes.

Final Note :

4 out of 4

Interesting Facts :

– Technicolor founders Herbert T. Kalmus and Natalie Kalmus considered this film the best example of Three-Strip Technicolor. During the filming, however, Natalie Kalmus often complained that Jack Cardiff wasn’t following the rules laid down for Technicolor films and demanded that they re-shoot various scenes. But Michael Powell always backed up Cardiff and they got the film they wanted. (imdb)

When Ludovic Kennedy saw Moira Shearer in this film, he said that he knew instantly that she was going to be the girl he would marry. He actively sought her out and married her two years later, in February 1950 in the Chapel Royal in London’s Hampton Court Palace. (imdb)

– Filmmakers such as Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese have named it one of their all time favorite films. (wikipedia)

Nominations :

– Oscars won : 

Best Art- Direction- Set Decoration, Color – Hein Heckroth, Arthur Lawson

Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Brian Easdale

– Oscar Nominations :

Best Film Editing – Reginald Mills

Best Picture – J.Arthur Rank and Archers

Best Writing, Motion Picture Story – Emeric Pressburger

Trailer :

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2 thoughts on “The Red Shoes [1948]

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