Wednesday, March 9, 2011

211. The Red Shoes (1948)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Written By: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, Keith Winter, from story by Hans Christian Andersen
Main Cast: Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook, Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann


Fighting some minor personal health issues, I was still able to muster up the commitment to check out "The Red Shoes" via the streaming portion of Netflix. My wife had been telling me since I started on the journey to watch the films of Powell and Pressburger, that "The Red Shoes" was excellent. Somehow I was still hesitant - I mean, come on, a movie about ballet? But, as usual, my wife was the one who was right.

The movie follows the Lermontov Ballet Company, which is headed up by Boris Lermontov (Walbrook). Upon the films opening, hundreds of people are jamming themselves inside a theatre to catch his newest production. Following the production, a party is held, where Boris meets Victoria Page (Shearer), who was hoping to dance for Mr. Lermontov at the party, but he declines the proposal. When he asks her "Why must you dance?", she combats with a question of her own - "Why must you live?". He tells her to come to auditions and that he'll see if he can make a part for her. In the meantime, Lermontov is also called upon by a young man, Julian Craster (Goring), claiming that the composer of Lermontov's previous ballet has ripped him off and used music that Craster himself wrote. Lermontov eases the boy and offers him a job - he accepts. Some time goes by, Craster earns his stripes and the reputation of being a hard worker and Lermontov realizes the greatness that is Vicky Page when he silently attends her rendition of Swan Lake of a much smaller production. Upon realizing the capabilities of his newest attributes, Lermontov begins production on "The Red Shoes", a story about a girl who goes to a ball wearing a pair of red shoes and at the end of the night can't seem to get them to stop dancing. The shoes eventually dance her until she dies. He casts Vicky as the lead role, despite everyone's hesitancy that she's ready and puts Craster in charge of the music.


You can certainly imagine my hesitancy as I prepared to watch "The Red Shoes". Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have yet to really "WOW" me with one of their pictures and ballet doesn't really get me into an uproar. However, I was totally dazzled by this film! It was probably one of the most colorful, vibrant and energy filled films I've seen, since Fellini's color films. There were images that frightened and images that were absolutely gorgeous. There were images that just made you sit back, clear your head and take everything in, as it came whipping at you through the screen. Moira Shearer was beautiful and watching her twirl and dance around on the stage during "The Red Shoes" ballet scene was a sight for sore eyes. I could have watched an entire film of JUST Moira Shearer dancing the dance of "The Red Shoes" and been completely satisfied. But, no, "The Red Shoes" wasn't just dancing and Moira Shearer wasn't the only standout part of the cast.

Anton Walbrook, in my opinion, was amazing. I love it when actors can really act and really add a flair to their dialogue, as it makes me want to hear every single word that they say and just hear them deliver. I know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but when Walbrook spoke in this film, I listened, as he had a voice that commanded attention. Marius Goring was really good too and I didn't even realize until just now (when I looked it up) that he was the same man who played the Conductor in "A Matter of Life and Death". Such a different role he plays here and a much more likable one.

If you want to see some real color, vibrancy, great choreography, a great story, great acting, some tragedy and the beautiful, light on her feet Moira Shearer, then check out "The Red Shoes". The only nitpicking I'd do on it is that it does drag a little in the beginning and a little in the end, but what is sandwiched in between is some great stuff and worth a look from your eyes.

RATING: 7.5/10 I'll go out on a limb and say that "The Red Shoes" is the best Powell & Pressburger I've seen thus far. I enjoyed "A Matter of Life and Death" more, but this one was enjoyable and just flat out quality stuff. Next: We finish Powell and Pressburger week and cut out the Pressburger part with "Peeping Tom".


March 9, 2011 8:42pm


  1. I'm still very creeped out by "Peeping Tom", but "The Red Shoes" is equally intense to watch, but so worth it. Have you seen "Black Swan" ? What did you think?

  2. I have yet to see "Black Swan" Maven, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm hit and miss with Aronofsky, but "hit" enough times to look forward to "Swan".


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