As played by the luminous an overused word, justly applied here Moira Shearer, a ballerina making her film debut, Victoria begins the film with only one desire: to dance. Her drive steers her into the path of ballet luminary Boris Lermontov the remarkable Anton Walbrook , who is completely uninterested until he sees that glint of possession in her eyes.
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Thus begins the pas de deux, equal parts inspiring and terrifying, between two artists. Theirs is not a connection of love. I think you can do even better than that. You can ignore it! Thus, the titular ballet.
Costumes and colour in ‘The Red Shoes’ |
You learn everything you need to know about what comes next in that central, minute ballet. On one side, the man who would make her a truly great artist. On the other, the man who could make her happy. On her feet, the red shoes. How could anyone not be torn apart?
Costumes and colour in ‘The Red Shoes’
Whatever Powell and Pressburger sacrificed of themselves to get the film made, whatever deal with the devil or pound of flesh it required, it seems to have been worth it. The Red Shoes is a terrifying, visually stunning piece of filmmaking, and its distinctive aesthetic thanks largely to the Oscar-winning work of German painter and theatre artist Hein Heckroth keeps its surrealist landscapes from seeming even the least bit dated. But watch it, and try not to wonder about who else is making such a choice, what artist is running away from a life of warmth and love in pursuit of a beast that never stops feeding.
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Pamela Hutchinson 6 September The Red Shoes The Red Shoes , which premiered 70 years ago on 6 September , followed a tremendous run of films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. For their next trick, they took a decisive step away from the tendency towards realism in postwar cinema, pushing the emotional expressiveness of Technicolor photography yet further, in collaboration with genius cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Pressburger had originally worked on the idea for the film before the war. The gamble paid off eventually.
While the initial release in Britain was very small, as the Rank Organisation resented the fact that it had gone wildly over budget, The Red Shoes played for two years in New York — and was soon acclaimed a triumph. While some ballet films use stand-ins and cutaways to make it appear that their actors have the right moves, Powell and Pressburger cast dancers instead.
Shearer proved an elegant and natural actress on camera — easily able to hold her own with co-stars Anton Walbrook as impresario Lermontov and Marius Goring as young composer Julian Craster. He intended to hire her for his own company but died before that could happen. In truth, there was probably more than a little of the Lermontov about director Michael Powell.
The Red Shoes
We see more bruising rehearsals than standing ovations, and yet, the Ballet Lermontov dances on. Walbrook, who plays him so brilliantly, was gay, as was Diaghilev. As certain critics have noted, there is a striking gay subtext to The Red Shoes, but it is a tragic one — Lermontov is a lonely figure whose obsessive nature demonstrates the danger of living for art rather than love.
The Red Shoes is one of the most widely influential movies of all time. The film also has an afterlife in the classic Hollywood musical. Gene Kelly screened the film multiple times for the producers of An American in Paris , as he persuaded them to let him include a ballet sequence in the film.
The popularity of the ballet sequence as a genre trope was underlined when Damien Chazelle included one in his pastiche La La Land There are several, pointed, references to the film in a very different musical, the Broadway adaptation A Chorus Line. The book for that musical was based on interviews with New York dancers, several of whom confided that The Red Shoes inspired their choice of career.
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