The Red Shoes

Dir: Powell & Pressburger (The Archers). 1948. Starring: M. Shearer, M. Goring, A. Walbrook, R. Halpmann, L. Massine. Classics.
The Red Shoes

The first time I heard a reference to Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes was Wes Anderson discussing it as cinematographic inspiration for the Royal Tenenbaums--one of my favorite films. I knew then that I HAD to see The Red Shoes and wasn't surprised when the film begins with a book being opened, just as Wes Anderson begins his own film. The similarities don't end there, and as I watched I began to see why he was so inspired by The Red Shoes:  the film is beautifully shot in technicolor, superbly acted, sumptuously danced, and touchingly tragic.

Though roughly based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name, the story revolves around the struggle between a ballerina, a composer, and the man attempting to make his own dreams come true by bringing fame to them all. Anton Walbrook is dark and impressive as the antagonist, ballet impresario Boris Lermontov, whose standards are so high that he abhors the idea of his proteges disturbing their creative lives by finding love. When the two protagonists, Ballerina Vicky Page, played by Moira Shearer, and Composer Julien Craster, played by Marius Goring, fall desperately in love with each other the Company that Lermontov has assembled begins to fall apart as he loses his own grip on reality. All with the most tragic of results.

Every aspect of this film is exquisite! The color photography, shooting locations (which include Covent Garden, London, Paris and Monte Carlo), the brilliant and award winning score by Brian Easdale, and the performances of dancers Moira Shearer, Leonide Massine, and Robert Helpmann all add to the flawlessness of this imaginative picture. Ballet giants Helpmann and Massine choreograph a triumph with the title ballet, danced superbly by all three, with Massine standing out for his improvised dance of The Shoemaker. It was impossible for me to look away during The Red Shoes Ballet as the Hans Christian Andersen tale came to life. At the time it was made, Powell & Pressburger, also known as The Archers, were taking major risks and trying things never before seen on film with this ballet sequence by incorporating surreal imagery, choreography, lighting, and cinematography. The Ballet of The Red Shoes seems to be taking queue's from Surrealist filmmakers, such as Luis Bunuel, and has inspired such filmmakers as Baz Luhrmann and the aforementioned Wes Anderson. It's no wonder to me that The Red Shoes is regarded as one of the most beautiful and touching stories in film history.

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The Red Shoes won 2 Oscars and was nominated for 3 more, including a nomination for Best Picture.

Posted by:
Grace Bartlett
Dec 3, 2008 2:00pm
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