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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>
I am biased because I have loved this film ever since I was four years old. Some films, as you grow and age, lose their magic and you forget what made you love it as a child. This film has only strengthened my love and appreciation of it as I have grown older. I am not one to narrate a storyline, as this film is great for more than, and even despite, it's story.
The beautiful colour photography of the locations, including London, Paris and Monte Carlo, will take you back to a fictional glamorous 1940's where everyone wore chic clothes and were perfectly mannered and groomed and make you wish you could visit there sometime.
The music is a highlight for me. Brian Easdale has written such a detailed and nuanced lyrical score that does not overpower any moment in the film. There are moments where the music so perfectly conveys a character's very thought, even though they are not saying a word and their face betrays not a hint of emotion.
The story is a familiar one, particularly today, of ambition and the balance between career and personal life, between a creative passion and a human one. And of course, yes there is the ballet element. I have no interest in ballet and I love the film. It does play up the prima ballerinas and haughty choreographer stereotypes, but as they are played by real ballet dancers, I think it makes it all the funnier. Robert Helpmann and Leonide Massine are particularly hilarious and over the top, so full of pathos and themselves.
Anton Walbrook is the star of this film, playing a Diaghilev type character and absolutely dominates any scene he is in. He is not bombastic in a showy, hammy way. It is a more silent but deadly charismatic performance. It is a pity he did not receive an award for it. He is stern, uncompromising, cold and passionate and absolutely deadly. He is a gentleman tough guy.
Moira Shearer and Marius Goring, unfortunately do not fare so well in comparison, but they are perfectly adequate in their roles and have some touching and funny moments. It is not altogether their fault, the characters are a little bland, especially in comparison to all the other larger than life characters they are paired with. Shearer really comes good as soon as she starts dancing.
Which brings me to the fifteen minute ballet in the middle of the film. It is beautiful (and brief). The dancing is fabulous, it looks beautiful and the music is amazing. No one should fast forward this masterpiece of filmed ballet. It is cinematic, not (as filmed ballet usually is) procenium stage bound. It is a modern ballet, choreographed by Robert Helpmann and Leonide Massine and is a story, perhaps even a mirror, within and of the film.
The Red Shoes combines every one of it's elements into a perfect whole. Some elements are a bit lacking, the story is very simple and given another context a bit soap opera like, but combined with the visuals, the music, the characters and the human comedy-tragedy, it is a beautiful complete film and one that will keep improving with age.
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