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.

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