Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Malcolm Pratt
The Red Shoes
Review by Bosley Crowther
New York Times,October 23rd 1948
Produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Written by Mr. Powell, Mr. Pressburger, and Keith Winter (additional dialogue)
Cinematographer, Jack Cardiff
Edited by Reginald Mills
Music by Brian Easdale
Choreography by Robert Helpmann
Art designers, Hein Heckroth and Arthur Lawson
Released by Eagle-Lion Films
Black and white
Running time: 133 minutes.
Anton Walbrook (Boris Lermontov)
Marius Goring (Julian Craster)
Moira Shearer (Victoria Page)
Robert Helpmann (Ivan Boleslawsky)
Leonide Massine (Ljubov)
Ludmilla Tcherina (Boronskaja)
Esmond Knight (Livy)
Jean Short (Terry)
Gordon Littman (Ike)
Austin Trevor (Professor Palmer)
Eric Berry (Dimitri)
Irene Browne (Lady Neston)
Over the years, there have been several movies in which attempts have been made to capture the spirit and the beauty, the romance and the enchantment of the ballet. And, inevitably, in these pictures, ballets have been performed, a few times with charm and sincerity but more often - and unfortunately - without. However, there has never been a picture in which the ballet and its special, magic world have been so beautifully and dreamily presented as the new British film, The Red Shoes.
Here, in this unrestricted romance, which opened at the Bijou yesterday, is a visual and emotional comprehension of all the grace and rhythm and power of the ballet. Here is the color and the excitement, the strange intoxication of the dancer's life. And here is the rapture and the heartbreak which only the passionate and the devoted can know.
In certain respects the whole picture which Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made seems to have the construction and the flow of a romantic dance. For not only is the story a frankly sentimental affair, true to the staunchest conventions of triumphal love and bitter tars, but it is played by a splendid cast of actors who have the grace and the pace of dancers themselves. Indeed, many of them are dancers, as is natural, and they frequently perform, so that the rhythm and movement of their dancing transmits easily into the dramatic scenes.
And, for that matter, the story - it being about an English girl who devotes herself to a famous ballet company, becomes its star, and then falls in love - is a symbolic realization of the theme of the principal ballet, which is based on Hans Christian Andersen's fable of the little girl who is bewitched by her red dancing shoes.
If there is one objection to the picture, it is that the story plays too long, with much involvement and redundance in a comparatively simple plot. There is no need to have the impresario, even though he is a charming martinet, reiterate with such monotony that dancing and love don't mix. And despite the beauties of the settings and the fascinations of the theater, it is wearying to see so much Monte Carlo and so much of the ebb-and-flow backstage.
However, the story is still beguiling, having been written with eloquence and taste, and the performance of Anton Walbrook as the impresario is winning, nonetheless. He gives such a wonderful picture of a forceful, inspired, creative man with a beautiful flair for the dramatic that his overfrequent presence can be borne.
And, at least, the length of the picture - a good bit over two hours, not counting an intermission - permits an abundance of dance, which is the particular glory and excitement in this film. Numerous bits and pieces of famous and popular ballets are handsomely and tactfully intruded. And the main ballet, "The Red Shoes," is given a full-length performance, playing for about twenty minutes on the screen.
The cinema staging of this ballet, conceived in cinematic terms, is a thrilling blend of movement, color, music, and imagery. For it quickly evolves from the confines of the limited settings of the stage into sudden and fanciful regions conceived in the dancer's mind. And here some spectacular decor and some fresh choreography, arranged by Robert Helpmann, spark impressions that are vivid and intense.
As the leading ballerina and the romantic heroine of the film, Moira Shearer is amazingly accomplished and full of a warm and radiant charm. Leonide Massine is wonderfully comic in a completely fantastic style as her dancing partner and ballet master, and his dancing (of his own creation) is superb. Mr. Helpmann and Ludmilla Tcherina dance and act remarkably well, too, and Esmond Knight, Albert Basserman, and Eric Berry are good in minor roles. Only Marius Goring, as the young composer who steals the heroine's heart, vaguely distressed this observer. Too flamboyant and insincere.
Much could be said of the whole decor, which is set off to brilliant effect by properly used Technicolor, and the music of the ballet. Much could be said of the direction of Mr. Powell and Mr. Pressburger. But right now we must be contented with repeating that The Red Shoes is one you must see.
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