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« Tim's Toons: The state of animation in 1948 | Main | Women's Pictures - Agnes Varda's The Gleaners And I »
Thursday
Jun252015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Red Shoes"

Before we begin, the beginning...

Is this not one of the cinema's most exquisite title cards? It's presentational, theatric, classic, colorful, and bears the distinct mark of handmade craftsmanship. That's all perfectly emblematic of the film itself, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's highly theatrical, deeply colorful look at obsessive artistry, possibly the greatest film of 1948, our Year of the Month (the Smackdown is Sunday)

Before we get to my choice, I'd like to share the others from around the web, since I was running late to my own series like some selfish prima ballerina whose 45 minutes late to rehearsal.

THE RED SHOES
Cinematography by Jack Cardiff
10 BEST SHOT(s)
As chosen by these participating blogs. Click on the photos for corresponding articles.

 Waves crashing on the shore of the stage. It's such a perfectly impressionistic moment...
-Dancin' Dan on Film

The film approaches this theme of obsession in some rather surprising ways...
-The Entertainment Junkie

 

Love and obsession are two sides of the same coin...
-Film Actually

 

If you haven't seen The Red Shoes, rest assured that it's the biggest gap in your film education, and you should make it a short-term priority...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

 

If you think about it, The Red Shoes,is just an incredibly artsy examination of the “Can women truly have it all?” question...
-Pop Culture Crazy

 

(Vicky. Her Relationship. Dancing). This love triangle of sorts dominates the latter half of the film... 
-Sorta That Guy

He holds them up to the camera...daring us to take them.
-Coco Hits NY 

Showcasing the cinematic artifice and especially the psychology. It's super overt, but why not?
-Movie Motorbreath

 

In a way watching her dance reminded me of the movie Ed Wood (I know strange comparison but hear me out).  He is so happy making his terrible movies.  The smile on his face never leaves."
-54 Reviews 

They're all great beauties and I considered some of them. My pick after the jump...

But The Red Shoes is such a perfect fusion of cinema and dance/theater that I wanted to go in a different direction. In truth I feel ill equipped to discuss "The Red Shoes," the ballet within the film I mean, that the second half of the picture gets so feverishly blissfully and...um... blisterly... lost in. (Her poor ballerina feet!) There's too much to process and I admit that I only recently got acquainted with this great picture. So instead, I'm behaving counterintuitively and I want to talk about the filmmaking of the first hour (so I'm purposefully only allowing myself a shot from there) and how it leads us into just this state of yearning for theatrical transcendence. The movie keeps confusing the lines of the real world and the theatrical and/or fusing them, whether we're outdoors, indoors, backstage or otherwise.

Take this shot (my silver medalist if you will) of the perpetually late ballerina that our tragic heroine will soon replace. She sprints towards these curtains (NOT a stage entrance) as if she's about to "go on"... even though she's just announced that she's getting married and will essentially no longer be going on. But what's behind these curtains is not the stage but the real world and the impresario who has already left her behind for leaving the stage for the real world. It's all very blurry contextually -- life as theater, theater as life, theater OR life. All the world's a stage?

He has no heart."

But I jump ahead.

I think The Red Shoes has one of the great opening sequences because it throws us into a world that's already addicted to music / ballet / live performance that we have to immediately accept. There's a dangerous urgency in the way the film opens on a door that students pour through as they sprint up the stairs to the theater balcony with such speed and fury it's a miracle that the only victim seems to be a poster on the wall that gets torn up in the stampede. (Reminder: they're at a ballet, not a rock concert.) Join this world of ballerina and composer worship or be trampled to death! The entire first half hour keeps leading us hypnotically towards this kind of abandon so that when "The Red Shoes" begins about 65 minutes later we're as ready to leap into those possessed shoes as the ballerina is and hallucinate and dance until we drop. 

So these are my two "best shots" from the film's first hour (I'll take either/or), both of them transitional moments presented with little fanfare or music. The first comes right before Miss Page is promoted to principal dancer and the second is immediately thereafter. 

But like Dorothy opening the door to a newly technicolor world, they're gently lulling and luring us into a fantasia, a world that is no longer than natural world. Both images are weirdly serene in their beauty, both outdoors but feel like the stage. When Miss Page walks up these steps to willingly grab hold of her tragic fate, she keeps passing through fields of light like the clouds are curtains, and she's in and out of the spotlight. Later when she peers out over the balcony a nearby train sends up smoke that reads exactly like a fog machine covering the stage at the start of a performance. From this point forward for both the composer and the ballerina there will be ONLY the music, ONLY the performance and ONLY the dance. For better and for much worse. 

Due to the forthcoming holiday there's no picture next week but "Best Shot" resumes on July 8th with CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON (2000). Please note. If you use Netflix Instant for this series, you'll want to watch it before July 4th when Netflix Instant stops streaming it. 

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References (3)

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Reader Comments (9)

This post has just reminded me that this is a movie that requires several viewings.

June 25, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercash

My picks for the best shots in "The Red Shoes" would be all and any.

June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

JJs Diner -- wise choice you've made.

cash -- right? I just didn't feel equipped to take the whole thing on in one post.

June 25, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Best Pic of 1948!!! (Sorry, Hamlet, but u hav aged a bit) Looking at it now, The Red Shoes is still so visually stunning & gorgeously lit...I rem one reviewer once commented: where Hamlet broods darkly, the Red Shoes leaps in gorgeous abundance, every step of the way!

June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Holy god. I WANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE!

June 26, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfadhil

I have to admit that when I was a young lad, Anton Walbrook made funny feelings in my pants. :-) I love this movie far beyond most movies. It's in a special class of movies that transcend the usual cinema.

June 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

The most gorgeous movie ever shot!

June 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Yes, Cardiff shot the film and did a stunning job, but there's no way you can talk about the aesthetic beauty of this film and not mention Hein Heckroth and Arthur Lawson's production design! The film is nothing without them.

June 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I had never heard of this movie so thanks for making it a part of the project. I loved it! I was a little confused at the beginning but it all works out and was stunning!

June 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterR Wagner

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