The Red Shoes

1948 ballet movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A ballerina struggles to balance her art and her personal life.

This movie might have been a little too long. Extraneous scenes added nothing to the story or the character. However, the Powell/Pressburger team paint some magical moments in the scenes that do matter. This precursor of Black Swan, only with far less masturbation, is splashed with color during that time in filmmaking when color probably looked the best. It's artificial color, but that's precisely the right sort of color for this dark fairy tale. Combined with some "How'd they do that?" effects, especially during the performance of the ballet that shares its title with the film, the visuals dazzle. That "red shoes" sequence is true movie magic, the kind of imagery that might actually make a person who doesn't think he like ballet realize that he likes ballet. The dancing is fine, I suppose, but it's the creative use of that color set design and some studio trickery that really makes this scene stand out.

I was impressed with Moira Shearer who I assume was picked for this because she had red hair and knew how to do that tippy-toe thing. I wouldn't call her classically beautiful, but her innocence and ballet moves give her just enough presence. Homely, and the love triangle between her, the villainous and perfectly egotistical Boris Lermontov played by a guy who isn't David Tomlinson but could have been, and the composer wouldn't have worked. Overly flamboyant or powerful, and you'd have difficulty empathizing. So she really is perfect for the role.

Tragedy is rarely filmed this beautifully. I just wish the story could have been told more succinctly.

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