Fuck Yeah The Archers
FILM RECOMMENDATION #3:
The Red Shoes (1948)
Directors: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
The Worth: The crowning achievement of a partnership that lasted many years features some of the most visually stunning cinematography in film history, with Jack Cardiff, widely considered to have been the “King of Technicolor,” leading the artistic aspect of a motion picture that is a magical ride from start to finish. It goes without saying that this is the finest film about ballet ever made, and no film even comes close to approaching its awe-inspiring dance sequences and colorful atmosphere that gives it a fairy-tale look as if it were a ballet taking place in the land of Oz. The film essentially employs the clever story within a story device, focusing entirely on a young ballerina, Vicky (the radiant Moira Shearer in her first of only several features), who joins an established ballet company and becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes. Vicky quickly comes into contact with Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), the ruthless but charismatic impresario of the Ballet Lermontov, who ends up being convinced of her technique and skill and ultimately takes her on as a student and eventually becomes his ideal choice as a successor. The spirited music of the ballet ends up written by Julian Craster (Marius Goring), an exquisitely talented young composer engaged as orchestral coach the same day that Vicky is brought into the company. What follows is a triangle of drama, love, and heartbreak, all accompanied by the ballet itself which guides the film’s plot along with the character perhaps with the most influence of all at the forefront of the conflicts - the red shoes. There are all too many memorable sequences that are worth so much more than brief descriptions as if they were just passing thoughts, for they are what give this wonderful piece of art life. The life itself, however, is only able to be breathed into the picture solely because of Moira Shearer, who is something of an angel somehow discovered and brought to the big screen to showcase the power of performance through both acting and her expertise, dancing, which she does effortlessly, along with a vast cast of dancers that provide support. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly Shearer who keeps the picture together, always graceful, never forceful, and perfect with dramatic execution. It’s a charming performance that dives into depths that exposes the overwhelming hardships of struggling with maintaining the grueling demands of nonstop performance and the only thing that seems to hold her entire world together - love. It’s no surprise that Vicky’s love of ballet overcomes everything in the film, save for the inevitable, which makes for one sensational ending that cannot be missed. A masterpiece in every sense of the word, The Red Shoes remains a quintessential dance film that vividly portrays the agony and the ecstasy of love and dance intertwined.
Occasionally I run into films that present a challenge in the review department. What more can be said about “The Red Shoes,” released in 1948 and hailed by many as one of the best films of all time? The reviews that exist all boil down to the same details: it looks good, it’s surreal, it makes you think of cinema in a whole new way. And on and on for the last 60 years.
Lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself by reviewing films of some pedigree (“The Leopard” being another recent example). While I start out trying to appeal to modern audience sensibilities, I have the tendency to get excited. My review of “The Red Shoes” has thus far taken the form of a polemic, coming off as the rantings of someone who believes he’s found God. Fitting, in a way, since “The Red Shoes” is a movie very much about people who follow art religiously, but I imagine agonizing to people who regard movies as mere distractions and people who can’t abide the “look at me, I have a thesaurus” tone of some know-it-all fuck with a Blu-ray player.
But I really think that watching “The Red Shoes” is like getting a glimpse of the face of God, and why not? What better reason would there be to make a movie in the first place? I’m no doubt conflating ideas of God with ideas of truth, and filmmakers and critics alike have their own ways of discussing both. But “The Red Shoes” is brilliant in part due to its willingness to jumble these ideas. Is it a movie we’re watching, or is it an excuse to indulge our souls’ yearning to find something more reliable than our bodies for 133 minutes?
Oh, but it looks good, too. I do go on in this review, but maybe it’s okay to go on once in a while. Movies, and all art, can mean more to us than we generally give them credit for. That’s what I’m really trying to communicate.
The Red Shoes (1948) directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger