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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The Red Shoes (1948)
By Henry Coombs
One of the few films impossible to over-praise
20th December 1999
The film isn't THAT closely related to Hans Christian Andersen's story; but it would be a good idea to read the story before seeing the film. It's one of Andersen's better stories, anyway.
Another minor note: if no other consideration will sway you, see `The Red Shoes' for a perceptive look the position of the ballet composer relative to that of the dancers. For Powell and Pressburger it's no more than a diverting side issue, but it's one of the things that especially interested me. If you look at advertisements for ballet productions today, you'll notice that the composer's name is NEVER printed - even if the ballet is called `Cinderella' and the public has no way of working out whose score is being used. It puts the composer in his place, no doubt. Yet musicians at the ballet are in the habit of thinking that they're the most important people there.
I'm on their side. I happen to loathe classical ballet as such. `Swan Lake' strikes me as a lovely score disfigured by people who insist on dancing to it. Yet `The Red Shoes' makes me put all of this aside. Indeed, it would be fair to say that I simply CAN'T dislike ballet while watching the film - which is especially odd, considering some of the things it does to people.
So, yes, if `The Red Shoes' can have this effect on ME, of all people, it's surely one of the best films ever made. I can't agree at all with the people who describe the film as `melodrama' or `camp'. (The latter charge I scarcely even understand.) The story is what it is and it's told at the most realistic and sincere level appropriate. The characters who act theatrically (NOT melodramatically) are all creatures of the theatre, and have not spent not just their days but their lives in Lermontov's troupe. If you want a more understated view of things then watch the musicians. To put in a word for one of them, Brian Easdale's source music is superb: GOOD music of a kind that an English composer like Craster might well be expected to write. It's clear that Easdale wrote Craster's compositions first, and then constructed the rest of the score around them, rather than vice versa.
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