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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>
Anton Walbrook's character of Lermontov was generally thought to be based on ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the man behind Vaslav Nijinsky. In 1913, after learning that Nijinsky had married his prima ballerina, Romola de Pulszky, Diaghilev fired them both from the Ballet Russes. In the film, Lermentov's constant firing of dancers who fall in love is a parallel of this. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, however, were more inclined to say that Lermentov was a representation of their first main mentor, Alexander Korda. See more »
The length of Julian's cigarette changes dramatically (gets longer and then gets much shorter than he could smoke it down to in the short time between shots) while he's playing the piano for Vicky in Lermontov's office. 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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