The Red Shoes (1948)
October 13, 2021 11:15 PM - Subscribe
In this classic drama, Vicky Page is an aspiring ballerina torn between her dedication to dance and her desire to love. While her imperious instructor, Boris Lermontov, urges to her to forget anything but ballet, Vicky begins to fall for the charming young composer Julian Craster.
The team which is making this unique and extremely difficult film is a brilliant one. First, the great Leonide Massine, probably the most famous male dancer in the world and one of the outstanding figures in the whole history of ballet. In the film are several ballets in which he dances; one of them is his own ballet La Boutique Fantastique which he has translated for this film.Currently streaming on HBOMax and Criterion Channel.
-- Ballet Today Magazine, 1948
The Red Shoes (1945) - The most "imaginative" and elaborate backstage musical ever filmed, and many have called it great. The film contains a 14-minute ballet, also called "The Red Shoes", based on a Hans Christian Anderson story about a wicked shoemaker who sells an enchanted pair of slippers to a young girl. Delighted at first with the slippers in which she dances joyously, she discovers that the slippers will not let her stop dancing - and the bewitched, exhausted girl dies. The film's story is, of course, the same story, spelled out in more complicated terms, with the shoemaker in the ballet (Léonide Massine) replaced by the megalomaniac ballet impresario (Anton Walbrook). The exquisite young Moira Shearer is the ballerina; the cast includes Marius Goring as the young composer, Robert Helpmann, Albert Basserman, Ludmilla Tcherina, and Esmond Knight. Blubbery and self-conscious, but it affects some people passionately, and it's undeniably some kind of classic. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - master purveyors of high kitsch.
-- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights in the Movies
But my main grouse is that Messrs. Powell and Pressburger never really give the audience a chance. The mixture of fact and fantasy is far too confusing. We began to settle down to a ballet made with Fantasia like sets that no stage - short of a stage-director's dream - could ever hope to produce, when all of a sudden Miss Shearer comes bouncing into the wings beside us for a costume change, and 'bang' goes the illusion. ('Bang' should also go the gun that shoots the director.)
Films like this are very jolly if made as an excuse for the cast to have a month on location in Monte Carlo. But what is their function? Are they meant to 'say' or 'do' anything? I have a feeling that the answer from Messrs. Powell and Pressburger would be solely in the language of £ s. d.
-- Roger Wood, Ballet magazine, vol 5, No 8, Aug-Sep 1948