Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#234 The Red Shoes (1948)


Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann, Léonide Massine, Albert Bassermann, Ludmilla Tchérina, Esmond Knight

This film chronicles the story of Victoria Page (Shearer), a girl discovered by a sharp-edged, stuffy ballet director for her raw passion for the art form. When his leading lady announces she plans to marry, Boris Lermontov (Walbrook), seeks his new star. Victoria's rise to stardom happens in tandom with a young composer who Boris also gives a chance, a young Julian Crasner (Goring). Together the trio put on one of the greatest ballets entitled "The Red Shoes,"which tells the story of a young girl's red dancing shoes which once put on, dance her to her death.

Unbeknownst to Boris, however, Page and Crasner fall in love, and it's then that Boris is forced to scheme a way to get back his star (with whom he is undeniably infatuated). The film slips off into a dreamy dance sequence of the ballet "The Red Shoes." It was this inner-film performance that set the stage for so many other films' long production numbers (think An American in Paris)! Beautifully performed, it not-so-surprisingly becomes a foreshadow of the real heroine's demise.

Recently having seen Black Swan in theatres, I can't help but draw a comparison between these two plot structures. Without the sex and special effects, we are taken on a similar ride through the ill-fated course of a great, recently-discovered dancer. Also, over the summer, I read Anna Karenina, which I, again, can't help but draw connections to from this film. The allusions and inspirations preceding and following this film seem endless, and it's not hard to understand why. A must-see for any dancer, but also well-worth anyone's time who can appreciate stage-style performance.

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