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The Red Shoes (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is a shock!
What can I say? Why did Hollywood haven't made this kind of movie and UK made it and why did Academy has no opened mind to give this movie a Best Picture of the... Read more
The inspiration for Black Swan, and it shows. A beautiful movie featuring gorgeous dance sequences.Published 1 month ago by Dain Evans
The color- restored edition was like seeing it for the first time and in fact since 1948 I've seen it at least 100 times.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A wonderful, much under advertised, and majestic, epic of a movie. Beautiful cinematography.Published 2 months ago by Skyking
**Review Contains Spoilers**
Thus is the central theme of The Red Shoes: to achieve true mastery of anything, one must make great sacrifice. Read more
I can't think of a better film an dealing with the pressures of social stress and constant validation of circumstance and social stress. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ishmael
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