The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

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 Neal Lofthouse

The Red Shoes
From: Picturegoer August 28 1948

This uncommonly beautiful film is one that you certainly should not miss, even if you are one of those who say "Ballet bores me."

The Archers, always enterprising, once again have broken new ground. There have been pictures with ballet in them before, but never one that captured so completely the spirit of the thing, never one that took you so intimately behind the scenes, with the exception of La Mort du Cygne (1938).

All the cosmopolitan, colourful intensity, confusion, concentration, temperament, and creative fervour are there. You see a new ballet take shape out of chaos, and as you do so you learn something of the spirit of the people whose life is ballet.

The story is the least striking thing about this film: the Archers too often throw away plot for effects. Here the story suffices - the tale of a girl whose affections are torn between her work as a dancer and her love of the young composer who writes the ballet for her.

The ballet itself, which you see in its entirety, parallels this personal story in bringing imaginatively and spaciously to the screen the fable of the dancer who wears the red shoes that drive her to dance to her death.

It is beautifully danced by Moira Shearer and Massine: and photographed with imagination: you see its settings, the stage and glimpses beyond the footlights through the dancer's mind.

The acting is first-rate, dominated by Anton Walbrook's sometimes overacted study of Lermontov, the impressario whose devotion to ballet transcends all other feelings, a fine realistic portrait of controlled intensity.

Shearer is not only a brilliant dancer but a beautiful girl, a Greer Garson of the dance. She accomplishes such acting as is required of her efficiently, but wisely the producers have not demanded too much of her in her first film.

The rest of the cast sustains the level of the priciples: Massine's ballet master, Marius Goring's composer, and Ludmilla Tcherina's ballerina are typical of the authentic character drawing. Robert Helpmann, an accomplished actor as well as a dancer, might have been given more to do.

Above all, it is the atmosphere - the creation of the entire world of ballet, physical and emotional - that makes this picture one that must be seen. In sensitively used Technicolor, marred only by some daubs of blood in the closing scenes, it provides a feast of beauty and some fine acting.

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