The Red Shoes (1948)

red shoes poster 1948 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great visuals, cast, and compelling story

Audience must expect the story to be interpretational

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Red Shoes

Studio: The Archers

Genre(s): Drama/Romance/Musical

Release Date(s):  July 22, 1948 (London)/October 22, 1948 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

red shoes anton walbrook moira shearer

You will be mine…oh, yes…you will be mine

Young dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) finds herself accepted into the prestigious Ballet Lermontov dance company run by Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook).  Also hired is a young composer named Julian Craster (Marius Goring) who already shows signs of talent.  When the fates align and Vicky finds herself dancing the lead in Julian’s adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Red Shoes” and both find instant success.  Under the watchful eye of Lermontov, Victoria could be the greatest dancer of all time…and no one can interfere with his plans.

Directed by Michael Power and Emeric Pressburger, The Red Shoes is a musical dance drama.  The film was released to critical acclaim and often makes all-time “Best of” lists.  It won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration—Color and Best Score for a Dramatic or Comedy Picture with nominations for Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Film Editing.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #44).

The Red Shoes is one of those classic films of “cinema”.  It is the type of movie that carries great pride with people who love it, and it is the type of film that you can imagine people claiming to be high society intellectuals debating at fine dinner parties with noses raised…and while that sounds snobbish, the movie is really pretty good and inspired.

red shoes leonide massine ballet

Care to dance?

The movie touches on tons of genres.  Primarily the film is a romantic dance drama, but the story dips into fantasy and even elements of horror.  “The Red Shoes” is a horrific story by Anderson and if you have background in it, you know that the movie isn’t going to end well.  Victoria is torn by both her love of dance and her love of a man and put in an impossible situation that is all tied together (she only met her love because of dance and because of the man trying to force her to dance).  It isn’t just Julian who wants Victoria to dance; Victoria wants it as well.  The ending echoes the Anderson story (and the ballet within the movie) with Victoria, possibly compelled by the shoes, to do the unthinkable…but it remains an enigma as the film ends.

The tough part about a movie focusing on an art like dancing is that generally the director has to make the sacrifice of selecting a talented dancer or a talented actress.  Moira Shearer (primarily a dancer) succeeds at both.  Anton Walbrook comes off as particularly villainous, but at the end of the film, the initially sympathetic Marius Goring feels cold as well by forcing Moira to choose at that moment.  I like the over-the-top Léonide Massine who feels like a model for Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies in Bob Fosse’s Cabaret (1972).

red shoes victoria moira shearer

You’re tearing me apart!

Visually the movie is quite stunning.  It is bright, colorful, and bold.  In the middle of the film, there is a prolonged dance sequence where you are allowed to see a condensed performance of the ballet.  Instead of being a “real” production, it is fitted with special effects that at the time were probably pretty high tech (especially when presented in vibrant color).  The film fortunately was restored in 2006, and it looks great.

The Red Shoes is a classic, and yes, it is the type of film you can be pretentious about.  It isn’t a film that gives you all the answers.  The movie is open for interpretation and encourages it.  The characters in the film are in love with their art and their art is inseparable from them.  In putting a story to film, the movie becomes art within art…and interpretation is part of the process.  While it is creative, art is also destructive.  Put on The Red Shoes and dance the blues.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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