Sunday, July 19, 2009

THE RED SHOES (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948, UK) Vicky must turn the Page in the book of her life: can she sacrifice the love of the ballet for the love of a man? Vicky is driven to dance like she is driven to breath…to survive. It is her escape and expression, her need to make sense of a senseless and weary world, and her desire to become the best dancer in the world. And this obsession is about to become fully realized through Boris Lermontov’s Ballet Company after the lead dancer marries and fades away into wifely duties, but she must promise to always focus upon her dancing first and ignore her human nature. Vicky’s heart pumps the blood-red love of her profession but it is soon reduced by the voracious physical appetite of Julian Craster the conductor: a man who considers Ballet a distant second to his true calling of writing Opera. Directors Powell & Pressburger film is vivacious Technicolor and this must be seen in the remastered print, where the colors and detail jump from the screen bringing this tragedy to life…and ultimately death. The ballet scenes are expertly choreographed, a physical fluid poeticism that transcends human form, and gorgeous set designs and makeup introduces this medium to mainstream audiences. Vicky’s fiery tempest of red hair mirrors her burning emotional conflict and she is beautifully portrayed by actress and dancer Moria Shearer. The narrative is actually a story within a story, as Vicky becomes lost in the fantasy of THE RED SHOES ballet, imagining her lover Julian and her great admirer Boris during the world famous dance. The ballet sequences are often filmed in wide shot with a minimum of edits, allowing the audience to admire the performance as if they were sitting in the auditorium: this enhances the spectacularly difficult ballet routines as they are filmed in one continuous take. Finally, Vicky succumbs to the cruel temptations of love and gives up professional dancing while her husband continues his dream of composing. But Boris gives her one last chance to perform THE RED SHOES and torn between divorce from her husband and life-affirming need to dance, the “magical” shoes seems to make the decision for her: Vicky’s final leap does indeed take her to the heavens. (A)