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Under the authoritarian rule of charismatic ballet impressario Boris Lermontov, his proteges realize the full promise of their talents, but at a price: utter devotion to their art and complete loyalty to Lermontov himself. Under his near-obsessive guidance, young ballerina Victoria Page is poised for superstardom, but earns Lermontov's scorn when she falls in love with Julian Craster, composer of "The Red Shoes," the ballet Lermontov is staging to showcase her talents. Vicky leaves the company and marries Craster, but still finds herself torn between Lermontov's demands and those of her heart. Written by
Paul Penna <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Upon completion of the film, J. Arthur Rank did not immediately release nor distribute it. The master film reels, instead, were stored for nearly a year on the Rank Studio transportation delivery-loading docks, exposed to the elements of the weather. Saddled with the film, Rank decided to release the it to small art house theaters in London. The public enthusiastically endorsed the film, establishing its popularity. Universal Pictures, in 1951, acquired the North American distribution rights to the film, primarily placing it in art house movie theaters. The San Francisco Fine Arts theater screened the film four times daily for two years to sold-out houses. See more »
Near the end, when Vicky is getting ready to go on stage for "The Red Shoes" once again, she's wearing the red dancing shoes as she hesitates. But that play starts with the white dancing shoes; only during the play does her character find the red shoes and put them on.
However, this is not an accidental goof. This is essential to the plot and the director wants us to overlook this detail so that all the symbolism of Vicky wearing those red shoes while "unable to stop dancing" can be fully explored. See more »
[holding doors closed]
They're going mad, sir. It's the students.
Down with tyrants!
Manager, Covent Garden:
All right, let them in.
See more »
I first heard of "The Red Shoes" when I read the liner notes to an album by the jazz/fusion group Weather Report, called "Tale Spinnin'". Therein it said that saxophonist Wayne Shorter had seen the film a few dozen times. Intrigued, I watched it when I noticed it in the TV listings. What a discovery!
With its focus on the tangle of lives of a ballerina, a composer, and a dictatorial impresario who uses them both, the story may have elements of a soap opera, but it's a superior soap opera. What appealed to Shorter, I'm sure, is the film's depiction of the artists' creative process. It may have been done better elsewhere, but I haven't seen it. Besides that, it's beautifully directed, beautifully photographed and sumptuous to look at throughout. The surreal title ballet is performed in a segment that is stunning, and I'm not just using that word as a cliche.
Anton Walbrook stands out as Lermontov, leader of the ballet troupe. There are many real-life artists from the ballet world in the film, including Leonide Massine and Robert Helpmann. Massine is particularly effective.
Don't be put off by the notion that this is some effete art film; it's high quality AND accessible. Anyone who enjoys art (especially ballet), romance or just plain good moviemaking owes it to themselves to see it.
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