Saturday 29 June 2024

Movie Review: The Red Shoes (1948)

Genre: Dance Drama  
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger  
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer  
Running Time: 134 minutes  

Synopsis: In London, ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) spots the talent of dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) and music composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring). He relocates them to Monte Carlo, where they create a new ballet called The Red Shoes. The show is a success, and Lermontov sees the potential for Victoria to be a global ballet star, but only if she fully dedicates her life for her art. When she falls in love with Julian, Lermontov's grand plan is disrupted.

What Works Well: The theme of art as an all-consuming passion necessitating total commitment is delivered in a unique visual style, cinematographer Jack Cardiff creating a colorfully gargoylian aesthetic. Drama veers towards tragedy and flirts with nightmarish visions, co-directors and co-writers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger exploring with unbridled ambition all the emotional corners of the ballet ecosystem. The 17 minute performance of The Red Shoes, whereby art foreshadows life and dancing becomes an inescapable imperative, arrives at the heart of the movie and is a stunning cinematic composition, deftly using imaginative special effects to escape stage anchors. As Boris Lermontov, Anton Walbrook hovers over proceedings in a domineering demonstration of control and manipulation, bending lives to suit his uncompromising dictats.

What Does Not Work As Well: The pacing is methodical, and the running time long. The characters do not exist outside their immediate interactions, and the shallow definitions are not helped by basic acting from Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, who are often overwhelmed by Walbrook. 

Conclusion: Dance as glorious obsession.

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