Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Red Shoes (1948)

An original release poster for, The Red Shoes.
The Red Shoes is the most well known film to come from the partnership between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It is considered to be their greatest film, and certainly their most iconic. To this day it's influences have done nothing but increase. Many film directors consider The Red Shoes to be among the great films to inspire their style. Can The Red Shoes be all that everyone says it is? Read on to see...!

Upon original release, The Red Shoes was a massive success among the film critics. Sadly, it had the opposite affect on the box office in the UK. The finances behind The Red Shoes didn't trust that it stood a chance in making any signification amount of money since it was an art film. After Powell and Pressburger's dismay, they re-marketed the film. After doing this, it went on to become the sixth most popular film in the 1948 box office.

Then The Red Shoes came to America. After the re-marketing in the UK, The Red Shoes, it went on to become a box office smash in the United States. In fact, the film stayed in theatres for 110 weeks. It was not long before it was calculated to be one of the highest grossing British films of all time.

Want an example of how pretentious artists can be? At first, ballet trainers, performers and critics wrote in review of The Red Shoes, praising it's fabulous performances of dance. Soon, word came around that The Red Shoes was not an internationally popular film. Suddenly these reviews of congratulations from the ballet experts stopped coming in. Some of the previous writers of the reviews, wrote in to explain they were incorrect, and this was a horrid film. They didn't want to possibly give congrats to a mainstream film! Even though the dance sequences were better than many a ballet.

When Academy Award season came around, there was some speculation whether The Red Shoes would be credited for the awards it deserved? Indeed, it was not snubbed. The Red Shoes was nominated for Best Art Direction (won), Best Music (won), Best Film Editing (lost), Best Writing (lost) and Best Picture (lost).
Here, we can see the famous red shoes!

Where dose The Red Shoes stand today? It's importance increases in the modern world every day. It is popular, not only among cinema-lover, but among everyone.  It exemplifies beauty in dance and art. The best way for viewing The Red Shoes is on a DVD from The Criterion Collection. It currently holds a very high 8.2 on IMDb and a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. One thing is for sure, nobody is going to be forgetting The Red Shoes any time soon!

A classic still from The Red Shoes. Here, Vicky is torn
between two worlds.
A stuck-up ballet impresario named Boris Lermontov, is feeling generous one day, when he gives life  changing opportunities to two unheard of artists. The two artists are, Julian Craster and Victoria "Vicky" Page. Craster is a very intelligent and very young composer. Craster never expected such luck. Vicky Page, an also young and equally unheard of artist. Vicky is a dancer with great talent, but little money. After going through training, she is given the lead in the ballet "The Red Shoes", which is to be conducted and composed by Craster.

Everything is at it's best. "The Red Shoes" is a huge success, which makes Vicky into a very large name! However, she soon finds herself in love with Craster. He loves her back. This is not what Lermontov intended for. He believes that once you are engaged in the art of dance, there is no room for dance. What will Vicky choose, her successful career in the dance industry, or her love for Craster?

Here you can see the great make-up
 job done on The Red Shoes.It makes the character look animated.
As I mentioned earlier, in my review of The Tales of Hoffman, these types of films are more suited for Technicolor than some other Powell and Pressburger, such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, where it seems the decided, "Hey! We have money! Let's shoot in colour!". However, it all seems to make sense in The Red Shoes. Technicolor elicits the dreamlike fantasy aspects of the film. In order to fully deliver these themes, they also accurately use make-up to make everything seem slightly surreal.

I will try to focus on the aspects of The Red Shoes that I have knowledge on, and the aspects that have not quite been discussed as often. However, it would be a terrible review if I did not credit the brilliantly haunting score by Brian Easdale. Once I re-watched The Red Shoes, I was immediately struck by the completely eeriness of the score. It will forever be etched into my memory. Finally, I also must congratulate the dance. I am in no way well-versed in such a subject, but I can tell when it is well preformed. It is well preformed in The Red Shoes.

So far, I have never seen The Archers use their camera so appropriately. Usually, they use the camera as a camera, it's only purpose being to record the events depicted in the film. However, in The Red Shoes, the camera seems to have a little bit of a life of it's own. For example, there is a great scene in which Vicky Spins. We would then cut to a POV shot (Point of View shot) where the camera spins. This is unlike many other Powell and Pressburger films where all we use in the forum of camera angles are close-ups, mid-shots and long shots. It was great to see The Archers attempted (and succeeding  at something new!

In the film of Powell and Pressburger, you almost always find very marvelous performances from a very marvelous cast. The Red Shoes, is in way an exception. Moira Shearer, who sadly acted in very few films, delivers a spellbinding performances in this film. I was in a state of awe as I watched her dance, and I was in a state of awe as I watched her struggle between two separate worlds.

As the film lengthens, The Red Shoes enters an unfortunate territory. It becomes a fair bit too melodramatic for my liking. It is not simply the idea of her having to choose between love and her career, it is more the execution of it. There are long scenes in which Vicky ponders over what she will ever do... I really began to not care. If you find yourself in a situation where you don't care about the lead character of Vicky, The Red Shoes. Luckily, the film ended before I could personally find myself in such a situation.

The entire last third of the film rests on the sheer evilness of one character. That is Boris Lermontov. His character simply did not work for me. He is evil, he hates it when he sees his beloved ballerinas leave him. Throughout the film he always seemed, stuck-up, but never evil until the end. This transformation is so sudden, that I did not believe it. Although the performance by Anton Walbrook as Boris Lermontov is not bad, it is not great. The leading problem with that character is the writing though, not the acting.

When we complete a viewing of The Red Shoes, one thing that it is impossible not to take back with you, is the imagery. I don't want to over-explain anything, especially since if I did I would have to spoil the ending. See The Red Shoes, then we can talk.

The Red Shoes,
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger,
Starring: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook and Marius Goring
7.5/10 (B+)

1. A Matter of Life and Death
2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
3. The Small Back Room
4. The Red Shoes
5. The Tales of Hoffman
6. The Spy in Black
7. The Battle of the River Plate
8. I Know Where I'm Going

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