The Red Shoes (The Criterion Collection)
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The Red Shoes, the singular fantasia from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Small Back Room), is cinema’s quintessential backstage drama, as well as one of the most glorious Technicolor visual feasts ever concocted for the screen. Moira Shearer (The Tales of Hoffmann, Peeping Tom) is a rising star ballerina romantically torn between an idealistic composer and a ruthless impresario intent on perfection. Featuring outstanding performances, blazingly beautiful cinematography by Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus, The African Queen), Oscar-winning sets and music, and an unforgettable, hallucinatory central dance sequence, this beloved classic, now dazzlingly restored, stands as an enthralling tribute to the life of the artist.
While Powell and Pressburger's classic adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes is a luscious film, this new Criterion treatment of the restored version gives us all a special reason to rewatch this dance nightmare yet again. With Martin Scorsese's explanation, on disc 1, of the huge task accomplished in its restoration, one not only marvels at how such a fine feature was allowed to accrue mold and scratches, but also at how lucky we are to have a clean Technicolor-like copy available to future viewers. Perhaps some of us are normally underwhelmed by studying cinematic restoration, but in this case the compare and contrast between old and new is astonishing.
Criterion's addition of an entire second disc of extras relating to The Red Shoes' conception, execution, and restoration gives the viewer a holistic glimpse into what is arguably the finest ballet film ever made. This second extras disc, including lengthy interviews with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell (Powell's widow and the film's editor) and audio commentary by Ian Christie, stars Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, giving one the typical multifaceted view of conditions that made the film possible. A half-hour long documentary, also called "The Red Shoes" (2000), fleshes out further the history of adapting a short story into cinema that feels like theater. But the most unique gems here are the creation and restoration tales surrounding the movie's finest scene: the dance sequence in which Vicky is swept away by her charmed red slippers. "The Red Shoes Sketches," an animated film made from Hein Heckroth's painted storyboards, is a fascinating look at this ballet sequence, as it shows how closely the set design emulates the cartoonish, fantastical original conceits. Jeremy Irons's reading of the fairy tale over the film is also mesmerizing. The only corny inclusion in the extras is a slide show of Scorsese's collection of Red Shoes memorabilia. In all, Criterion's treatment of this film about passion turned obsession does well to mimic The Red Shoes thematically by studying the movie with an equally passionate stance. --Trinie Dalton
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
As a dancer, I think that this movie captures perfectly the way dance becomes a passion -- something that you live for thought it consumes you like fire. As a filmgoer, I believe that this movie more successfully than so many others -- "The Turning Point," "Black Swan," etc., -- makes ballet a cinematic form. "The Ballet of the Red Shoes" was made specifically for the camera and cannot be performed on stage so it does things that the two art forms together can only produce. In doing so, it captures the inner life and fantasy of the dancer in such a way that you have no idea what she is "actually" dancing for the fictional audience, but that you get a ballet that matches the rest of the film's themes perfectly. Though I have only read descriptions of "L'apres midi d'un faun," it seems to me that "The Ballet of the Red Shoes" telegraphs the same introversion that "L'apre midi d'un faun" might have tried to show: the dancer, dancing for herself/himself, because it is the dance that she/he lives for, not the audience.
As a composer myself, I find this film is perfect, to the point of being ALMOST unwatchable. I am sure opera lovers enjoy this film as there are many familiars in how both are presented to the audience. But my words cannot do justice to this film. To paraphrase Campbell "The best things in life cannot be talked about, for there are no words to connect to it, no tongue has soiled it. The 2nd best things to talk about are misunderstood, because they refer to things that cannot be talked about. The 3rd best thing are what we communicate on a everyday basis.
I would want everyone to watch this film and take what they can from it. For me it is the Holy Grail.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Was short on time, but did managed to watch about 10 min of the film...blown away with the transfer....Read more
The main theme of this movie is obsession.Read more
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