The Red Shoes

A part of this view­ing listCriterion Collection Spine #44: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.

I wasn’t re­al­ly ex­pect­ing to en­joy this movie, as I haven’t had much luck with Powell & Pressburger in the past, but it was good. The cos­tum­ing, make­up and oth­er pro­duc­tion val­ues were well sit­u­at­ed to make the most of Technicolor. The plot was put to­geth­er to de­lib­er­ate­ly par­al­lel, in theme at least, that of the Hans Christian Andersen sto­ry that fea­tures so promi­nent­ly through­out the film.

The on­ly de­trac­tions were the fre­quent­ly used spe­cial ef­fects to high­light these par­al­lels. They broke the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief that was watch­ing a bal­let­ic per­for­mance, and beat the view­er over the head with dra­mat­ic irony. I can see that this might have been a glimpse in­to Vicki Page’s sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, as well as an artis­tic de­ci­sion, but the sto­ry & film it­self was so well craft­ed up to that point, and any and all spe­cial ef­fects so no­tice­ably ab­sent up to the first per­for­mance of The Red Shoes, that I think the film would have been stronger with­out their pres­ence.

While danc­ing kills pro­tag­o­nists in both the lit­er­al and meta-lit­er­al sto­ries, Powell and Pressburger ef­fi­cient­ly and poignant­ly turn the fairy tale in­to some­thing more con­tem­po­rary and com­plex. The in­ter­lock­ing love tri­an­gles and tough choic­es that the main char­ac­ters make (not al­ways wise, but al­ways pas­sion­ate) make a much deep­er point about what it means to die for what you love than any fairy tale could tell.