Magical. Although THE RED SHOES is the ultimate ballet film, you don't have to be a balletomane to enjoy this backstage love story distinguished by glorious dancing, superb acting, and masterful direction. After the successful staging of a new ballet, impresario Boris Lermontov (Walbrook,
obviously modeled on Serge Diaghilev) admits two new members to his company: Victoria Page (Shearer), a gifted young ballerina, and Julian Craster (Goring) an equally talented composer. After Julian acquits himself well as an arranger, Boris gives him a chance to collaborate on a new ballet, "The
Red Shoes," with Victoria. A breathtaking 20-minute ballet based on Hans Christian Anderson's story about a pair of magical shoes that permit their wearer to dance gloriously but tragically prevent her from stopping, it brings great acclaim to both Julian and Victoria, who have fallen in love.
When Julian leaves the company, Victoria follows, marrying him over the objections of the jealous Boris, who avers that she is ruining her brilliant future. Owning the rights to "The Red Shoes," Boris prevents her from dancing her greatest role until, much later, he gives her one more opportunity
to perform in Monaco. Doing so, however, means she will miss the premiere of Julian's new work. The three principals confront one another just before the performance as the film builds to its memorable climax.
THE RED SHOES began as a Pressburger script commissioned by producer Alexander Korda for wife Merle Oberon, whose dancing was to have been done by a double. Pressburger and collaborator Powell then bought the script back from Korda and co-helmed this extraordinary tale of romance and artistic
obsession. According to Lermontov, there is hardly the time to be both a ballerina and a loving wife. While some may quibble with this, the film's tension becomes such that you totally understand why dancing or composing becomes the most important thing in the world to those gifted and dedicated
enough to do them. The parallels between Victoria's story and that of the ballet are obvious without being too heavy-handed. The ballet, meanwhile, is so engrossing that it flies breathlessly by. Full of audacious lighting, dance modernisms and swirling plastic, it is gloriously unafraid of its
own pretensions. The always impassioned but usually more subdued Walbrook does a magnificent job essaying the driven impresario, and the unusual-looking Goring is convincing and compelling as well. Shearer, whose gorgeous red hair is beautifully rendered by Cardiff's opulent Technicolor
photography, was a Sadler's Wells ballerina who proved to be a much better actress than anyone had dreamed. This bewitching performer covers the emotional gamut quite skillfully and would ever after be identified with this role. Praise should also go to the other dancers in the cast--Massine,
Tcherina, and Helpmann (who also did the choreography). They all perform with great assurance and grace, onstage or off. The film's backstage detail remains intoxicating and when it comes to the more melodramatic aspects of the film, Powell and Pressburger let the naysayers be damned.
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- Review: Magical. Although THE RED SHOES is the ultimate ballet film, you don't have to be a balletomane to enjoy this backstage love story distinguished by glorious dancing, superb acting, and masterful direction. After the successful staging of a new ballet, impr… (more)