117 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2000
Many of Powell and Pressburger's films explore the life of the artist and the power of the artistic imagination. In THE RED SHOES and PEEPING TOM, most notably, the writer-directors reveal the sacrifices that art sometimes demands from its acolytes.
Balletophiles often praise THE RED SHOES, but one need not be a fan of ballet to be amazed by the film's emotional power and extraordinary staging. On the Criterion DVD, the saturated reds that represent the artist's blood sacrifice, and the cool aqua-blues that represent the (false) promise of life and romance outside of art, appear with unmatched vividness. Powell is a master of color, and has influenced a generation of filmmakers (through the advocacy of his admirer Martin Scorcese) with his theories about how color and music contribute to the thematic impact of a film.
Anton Walbrook, who plays the impressario Lermontov in THE RED SHOES, is one of Powell and Pressburger's favorite actors, appearing to stunning effect in THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP as well. Moira Shearer, the actress/dancer who plays the lead, made her reputation on THE RED SHOES. She also dances in one segment of the rarely-seen Powell/Pressburger masterpiece THE TALES OF HOFFMAN.
The Criterion DVD has the beautiful sound and picture we've come to expect from the Voyager Company. Interesting disc features include: an audio track of Jeremy Irons reading from the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, the complete text of Powell and Pressburger's novelization of the movie, an extensive collection of Scorcese's memorabilia, and a comparison of the Red Shoes Ballet with the filmed storyboard sketches the directors used as a guide. One wonderful addition for Powell and Pressburger fans is their filmography -- brief descriptions with cast lists and dates for all their films, most of which also have film clips included. It's a chance to see scenes from some of the long-lost works in their catalogue.
92 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2000
I've seen the original film of "The Red Shoes" a number of times over the years and just loved it. The story, ballet, music, color, actors, and the whole production are superb!
Later I acquired the RCA SelectaVision CED video disc edition (two parts) in the early 1980s. The CED issue unfortunately was prone to frame skipping, occasionally syncopating the ballet sequences. Still later, I obtained the Paramount VHS hi-fi release (1987). There was no frame skipping with the VHS tape, but the tops of all the frames tended to be somewhat bent and fluttery. Alas, I found no remedies for these problems.
Without question, this DVD release is the best of the lot, technically. And, I liked the additional background material contributed to this DVD edition. The DVD has great color with clear, well focused images. The only deficiency, in my opinion, is the movie sound track which sounds dated (1947), however it's on par or better than the forementioned VHS release.
Overall, I would class this DVD movie as one I would have to take, along with others, to a desert island on which I subsequently became marooned.
46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
This is a magnificent movie, one of the most voluptuous ever filmed (in Technicolor), one of the most influential, and one of the most satisfyingly melodramatic. Every bit of it works. At the most simplistic, it's a fairy tale, Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes, that takes place in a ballet, which is repeated in real life.
At the heart of the movie is Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), the imperious impresario of The Ballet Lermontov. He can be cold, charming, ruthless. At a party he says, "If some fat harriden is going to sing, I must go. I can't stand amateurs." He's enigmatic except for his dedication to ballet. At that same party he meets Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), a young ballet dancer, and is intrigued by her.
"Why do you want to dance?" he asks her.
"Why do you want to live?"
"I don't know exactly why, but I must," he says.
"That's my answer, too."
He brings her into his ballet company and also hires Julian Craster, a young composer. Later, with three weeks to create a ballet, he has Craster compose the music to the story of The Red Shoes. Victoria Page will dance it. It is a triumph, but Page leaves the Ballet Lermontov to marry Craster. Lermontov is outraged and swears he'll never see her again. She needs to dance, though, and Lermontov slowly realizes he wants her back, completely dedicated to dancing, because he can make her a great dancer. He subtly woos her back to dance the ballet again, with tragic results.
The ballet of the red shoes is the story of a young girl, engaged to be married who loves to dance and longs to go the village fair. She spies a pair of red dancing shoes in the window of a shoemaker. Despite the reluctance of her fiance, she dons the shoes and begins to dance. She has a joyous time. As she tires, however, the shoes won't let her stop dancing and she can't take them off. She dances until she dies.
The movie works so well on so many levels. Anton Walbrook is marvelous. He can be cold and demanding and devious as Lermontov, but he conveys exactly Lermontov's utter dedication. At the end of the movie when Lermontov, alone on the stage, announces to the audience Victoria Page's death in a strangled kind of breaking screech...well, you'll sit up straight. Moira Shearer, who was in fact a young ballet dancer at Sadlers' Wells and had to be coaxed to take the role, is a gorgeous creature and a first-rate dancer. She carries off the acting requirements very well. With her flaming red hair, she is just a wonder to look at and appreciate.
And then there is The Red Shoes Ballet itself. This was the first time a movie's story line was interrupted for an extended dance piece. The music by Brian Easdale is so memorable that I doubt anyone who hears it will forget the main theme. Powell directed the ballet as a surreal fantasy. It starts on the stage of the theater, then shifts to a stage that was never built in a real theater, then shifts into pure cinema. After The Red Shoes, other musicals suddenly had to have ballets -- An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, and on and on -- but none has ever been better than this.
The Red Shoes is a magnificent movie. It deservedly remains one of Powell's and Pressburger's great accomplishments.
The Criterion edition is just about flawless with true color and great clarity. The commentary that accompanies the movie is fascinating.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
The Red Shoes was one of the best ventures by The Archers, the joint production company by Briton Michael Powell and Hungarian emigre to Britain Emeric Pressburger, considered to be the definitive film marrying ballet and cinema.
The story of the Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen forms the basis for the story of aspiring dancer Victoria Page, aspiring composer Julian Crasster, and ballet company impresario Boris Lermontov, who takes on the latter two under his wing. Crasster's involvement begins when portions of his work Hearts Of Fire is appropriated in a ballet, and he's given the job of orchestra coach, when he confronts Lermontov. Page comes to the attention of the maestro when the latter snubs an offer by the girl's aristocratic aunt to see her dance. To the Russian, ballet is more than poetry and motion, but his religion, and hence, not an audition. He tries her out at a separate audition, where she makes the final cut.
Lermonotov decides to stage his next ballet based on Andersen's tale, with Victoria as the principle (Victoria Principle? just kidding) and Crassner as the composer. The ballet is a hit, for Lermontov and the whole film, as it's the highlight of the entire movie, with Victoria's flaming red hair a marked contrast to her pale skin and outfit, the ruby red shoes forming a near-symmetry, as they are on her toes. The choreography as well as the music is masterful. Despite Lermonotov and Crassner's insistence that "the music is all that matters," for us the film viewer, it's also the colours and dancing that do as well. Indeed, though the cinematography missed an Oscar, the score and art-direction/set decoration did not.
However, as demonstrated by the departure of his previous star, Irina Boronskaya due to marriage, the authoritarian Lermontov takes this personally, almost a heresy to his religion of ballet. To him, a dancer relies on the doubtful comfort of human love. Once that doubt is removed, goodbye dancing shoes, tights, exercise bar, hello high heels, stockings, and kitchen. He is determined to make Page a master dancer, and anything that comes in the way, he sees as a detriment to himself.
As for the original story, it's of a girl who puts on a pair of enchanted red shoes that keep on dancing even when the girl doesn't want to. This movie is a reinterpretation of it, where the ballet soon turns to real life.
This was Moira Shearer's debut film, and first of only six movies, and the young Scot creates a vivid but fragile and fairylike Victoria, aspiring dancer, the subject of her Svengali-like mentor, and emotionally tortured between being a dancer and a housewife. As she did ballet from age six, an ideal choice. And Ludmilla Tcherina, who plays Irina and who just recently died, was a former prima ballerina of the Monte Carlo ballet, so another great choice. And admire or hate his petty authoritarian personality, Anton Walbrook's powerful personality drives the movie. But Leonide Massine as the flamboyant, camp dancing coach Grigori Lyubov steals the show. Shearer, Massine, and the two directors would be reunited in The Tales Of Hoffman.
A visual triumph in the dancing scenes, as is the foreign location footage. Oh, and the Archers team wasn't the only one inspired by Andersen's tale, as Kate Bush created a reinterpretation of it in her The Line, Curve, and Cross short film.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2002
The 1948 classic film starring Moira Shearer (herself a professional ballerina) is no only an enjoyable semi-realistic fantasy film, in much the same lines as say The Wizard Of Oz, but a brilliant film technically to look at. It's drawn from the dark fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson (responsible for such stories as The Little Mermaid), in which a young girl is forced to wear red shoes with a will of their own. The poor girl dances until she dies. The concept is taken to a late 40's England, where the aspiring ballerina Victoria Page seeks to dance in the prestigious company headed by the eccentric, perfectionist and intensely driven impresario Lentmontov. The story provides the audience with a glimpse of dance rehearsals, theatrical life both pre-performance and during, the charm of the glamourosu life ballerinas are said to enjoy. But in reality, it is a study on obscession, the demand for virtuouso performance and the conflict between love of one's career and romantic love. Victoria Page is herself doomed to dance to her death when she is torn between her duty to Lentmontov and her love for his musical composer and choreographer. This movie is excellent for ballet fans, and for stage magic fans- the Ballet of the Red Shoes is the most striking moment in the film, an original ballet set against surreal, nightmarish backgrounds of carnivals, ballrooms and ghostly netherworlds where neon lights change colors in blinding and dizzying speed and danced to jazzy 40's music. The film is sure to impress adults (I disagree that it is for children due to the drama of the whole thing), and it is marvelously shot in Paris, London and Monte Carlo. A film like this does'nt come often.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Of all the Powell/Pressburger collaborations, THE RED SHOES is by far the most famous, and the most beloved. Although it has often been ridiculed for its melodramatic storyline, it's almost impossible to forget it once you've seen it, and it's been an incredibly potent allegory for the conflict of life and art for many people over the decades. As the commentary on this DVD repeatedly points out, its best to understand the film as a fairy tale, like the Hans Christian Andersen ballet at its core and from whence it derives its title. Moreover, Powell and Pressberger treated this almost as an experimental film, and worked almost every trick on it available to them to heighten its effects. It becomes thus almost a textbook case for a film scholar to see the different kinds of effects a film at the time could have in terms of playing with camera speed, double exposure, use of color, etc., and many of the individual shots are not only deservedly famous but seem to derive from minds as creative and playful as Griffith's: the great shot of Vicky's feet racing down the spiral staircase, the whirling pans from her point of view at the Mercury Theatre performance of "Swan Lake," and so on. And then there are the fine performances from Moira Shearer, impossibly lovely as the heroine, and Anton Walbrook as her dashing but fearsome Svengali. It's a one-of-a-kind classic worthy of repetaed reviewings, and the Criterion folk give it all the supplemental material it deserves. The commentary is especially fine, with insightful comments from all manner of different people who either worked on the film (like Shearer, or the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff) or who have loved it over the years (like Martin Scorsese, who counts it as one of his most enormous influences). The restoration of the print is also spectacular, with the Disneyesque primary colors in its basic palette at their richest and most hypersaturated.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2000
I was expecting a boring sappy story about ballet, what I found was one of the most entertaining films ever. It is a wondrous look at the world of ballet. Who knew that a Midwest teen would find ballet cool. The cast is super especially Boris. We watch two young people achieve their dreams in the competitive world. They start out ignorant and ignored in a great scene where both Julian and Vicky are pushed aside. There is a wonderful shot from the stage that is dizzying to show Vicky's perspective. Highlighted by a beautiful ballet piece in the middle. The sequence is a great moment on film. Beautifully photographed with wondrous lights and special effects. It takes the sequence to another level. Hypnotic and mystifying. A wonderful scene is the dance with the newspaper. The curious changing of perspective shows us a glimpse into the future with Boris and Julian appearing in the dance briefly. This of course leads to a fascinating parallel of the Red Shoes in the lives of Vicky, Julian, and Boris. In the film's most powerful scene the Red Shoes goes on without anyone in Vicky's role.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2004
Directors Powelland Pressburger collaborated in a number of films but The Red Shoes tops them all. This 1948 TechniColor movie has become a classic and lovers of the ballet fondly look to this film for inspiration. Stars ballerina turned actress Moira Shearer as Victoria Page the tragic heroine who wears the fatal shoes, Antal Walbrook as the demanding and imperious manager/impresario Boris Lentmontov. The film is drawn from the Hans Christian Anderson tale, in which a young girl is given red shoes by a shop keep only to dance herself to death. The film never even borders on magic realism nor is over the top but maintains a subtle psychological drama that turns grotesque into a climatic and grim finale.
Moira Shearer's performance is Oscar worthy. Vicky Page learns from Lentmontov all the right stuff to be a dedicated dance artist. But the ballet is second in her heart when she falls in love with a young composer/conductor. Distracted by love, Lentmontov worries that he has lost his greatest star. The crisis is even greater because apparently, cold though he is, Lentmontov falls for Vicky himself. Anton Walbrook delivers a great performance as Lentmontov. He would later take on the role of King Ludwig of Bavaria in the French Max Ophuls film "Lola Montes". There is an extended ballet sequence, the original ballet "The Red Shoes" which makes use of magic animation and colorful backdrops. This film is genius and art. A great film to be shown in ballet history class or dance classes. This is also a caution film. Perhaps it's unwise to seek artistic perfection. It's ultimately Victoria Page's own fault for her tragedy. The Red Shoes is a metaphor. She became a slave to her art and it destroyed her. Her indecision cost her greatly. Which is greater ? Perfection in her ballet career or true love ? Torn by her love of ballet and her love for Julian, she meets a dire fate. This movie is incredible. All the scenes, dialogue are artistic composition. The film was shot in European locations, including London and Paris.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2006
Art films are rarely successful commercial interpretations relying more on art crowds with an art for arts sake attitude. Nevertheless, The Red Shoes is an ballet and art film that is a successful dramatic interpretation that excels in telling the story of a lovely young dancer, Victoria Page, who must decide between her desire to dance or to live as the wife to her love, a up and coming composer. Moria Scherer is the elegant dancer placed in the cross hairs of the powerful impresario, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) her mentor and an obsessive control freak. Lermontov wants his principal dancer to remain faithful only to his company and under his direction. As Vickie tries to make her way in the company, she is plucked from the chorus by Lermontov to dance the principal lead in the new ballet, "The Red Shoes." To familiarize her with its new music, Lermontov asks his assistant conductor, Julian Kraster (Marius Goring) to play for her during off-stage and on-stage moments. Throwing the two rising stars together, Lermontov sets in motion a situation for young love to blossom, a situation intolerable for the jealous, controlling ballet impresario.
The cinematic high point of the film is the 20 minute ballet of the Red Shoes, which for students and lovers of the ballet is one of the great treats of dance film history. Incorporating the stylized ballet techniques of the 40s, it is a window into the formal partnering and choreography techniques from European schools. Influenced by the Russian style of the Imperial school, and more familiar to Europe's audiences, it is rarely seen in the U.S. Incorporating the famous surrealistic look in sets and costumes, the story of the ballet foreshadows a dilemma which young Vickie will experience with disastrous results.
Other snips from the classical ballet repertoire features Copellia, Ballet Fantastique, and Les Sylphide, all rarely danced today. One principal dancer of note is the brilliant Russian choreographer and dancer, Leonide Massine, as Grecia Lubov, who recreates several of his characteristic leaps and tantrums from his own stellar career in Russia and Europe with the Ballet Russe.
This is a film made for color with shocking use of vibrant reds and blues that literally stun the eye. Shot on location in Monte Carlo and London, the film reflects plush settings of the great resort lifestyle with its opulence and grandeur. If films of art, music, and fantasy are your cup of tea, The Red Shoes is the film to watch. It is a visual exultation of music and the ballet through the work of a great production team of Pressburger and Powell, and is a film never to be forgotten or remade. It is a must for all family film libraries as well as art house collectors.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film is well known and the first technicolor film about ballet. It is based loosely on the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name. In this version, a ballerina with great potential is forced to make a decision between her promising career and her lover. The film has a famous 15 minute ballet sequence that has been adored throughout the ages.
The DVD includes the following special features.
A slide show of martin scorsese's collection of lobby cards related to the film.
Slide show of publicity and production photos
series of paintings with alternate angle shot that has side by side comparisons between the ballet sequence with the storyboard paintings.
a partial Powell & Pressburger filmography with photos and clips of some of their films. (some of which were subsequently released by Criterion Collection
full length audio commentary
audio of Jeremy Irons reading the Andersen tale and excerpts of film novelization by Powell & Pressburger.
The films of Powell & Pressburger have been imitated many times by modern filmmakers and this isno exception.
a must for ballet enthusiasts and Criterion fans.