[Film Review] The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes poster.jpg

Title: The Red Shoes
Year: 1948
Country: UK
Language: English, French, Russian
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Directors/Writers: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
inspired by the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen
Music: Brian Easdale
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Cast:
Anton Walbrook
Moira Shearer
Marius Goring
Léonide Massine
Esmond Knight
Albert Bassermann
Robert Helpmann
Ludmilla Tchérina
Irene Browne
Austin Trevor
Rating: 7.9/10

The Red Shoes 1948.jpg

If there is a poll of the most factitiously gorgeous movies of all time, Powell-Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES will no doubt be surmounted on the top tier, for its kaleidoscopic use of Technicolor, highlighting the minutiae of its personages’ fine complexion under sublime warpaint, carrying on to a fairyland luster that reflects the center story, and most extraordinarily, its scenography of phantasmagoria and spectacle, conjured up by art director Hein Heckroth.

Certainly, for highbrow spectators, THE RED SHOES is an absolute humdinger even it is just for its eponymous ballet piece, written by Brian Easdale, choreographed by Robert Helpmann and headlined by a virtuoso Moira Shearer, this Hans Christian Andersen inspired magic tragedy has been roundly integrated into the narrative, where a budding prima ballerina Vicky Page (Shearer) is torn by her hankering to play her bespoke showpiece and the secular love with Julian Craster (Goring), a promising composer, and the blockade is set by the ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Walbrook), who has discovered Vicky in the first place, and loathes whoever dares to blemish the purity of devotion to art by falling into that profane thing called love, already he has instantly dismissed another ballerina Irina (Tchérina) when she delightfully apprises the news that she is going to get married, so both Vicky and Julian should have known better.

First of all, the ever-dapper Austrian actor Anton Walbrook effuses a superb air of condescension, complacency and cruelty that gives to the propulsion that the lax plot needs the most, calibrating every line and gesticulation with tacit investment of Boris’ warped tunnel vision, he runs rings around his co-star Shearer and Goring as inhabiting “the man with no heart” with unyielding determination, he is at once obnoxious and fascinating.

The fascination must be dialed down towards the ill-sorted pair, Ms. Shearer, is a fabulous dancer but not exactly what one might call as a supreme hyphenate, and even under the slap, furrows materializes on the face of Goring, who was 36 years old and looks like a doppelgänger of Dirk Bogarde (who would be a perfect Julian at a tender age of 27) to this reviewer’s eyes, then yet has to play a sapling, so it is somewhat grating to see he is constantly referred as a “young man” by Irina (Tchérina is only 24), premature senility prevails, and that is not to say he is given much to do as the thankless fodder who bewitches Vicky into wedlock and cannot let her embrace the glory she yearns.

Whereas viewers are showering in divine immersion of the most astonishing craftsmanship ever been executed on the screen, the discrepancy between its visual-and-aural extravaganza and a hoary, faintly incoherent (no effort is made to emphasize what the titular ballet means to Vicky, for instance) and evasive (unpunished plagiarism needs some scathing condemnation here) script only mars the ascension of THE RED SHOES as an irrefutable chef d’oeuvre that creates a harmonious symbiosis of cinema and ballet, and by the time they launch another attempt in THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (1951), the duo’s mojo has drastically faded.

referential entries: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (1951, 5.1/10), BLACK NARCISSUS (1947, 8.3/10).

Oscar 1948 - The Red Shoes.jpg

 

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