Red Shoes: Special Edition
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Red Shoes: Special Edition

Powell, Michael

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s most celebrated Technicolor fairy-tale, The Red Shoes is both metaphor and melodrama of unparalleled boldness. So extravagantly theatrical a movie was regarded as simply unreleasable by the Rank Organisation back in 1948, but in spite of their attempted suppression it has long since been acknowledged as one of British cinema’s landmark achievements. Not only were Powell and Pressburger unorthodox enough to populate the cast with real ballet dancers (including the radiant Moira Shearer in the pivotal role), they built the whole film around an extraordinarily daring 17-minute ballet sequence in which the camera moves from outside the proscenium arch into a subjective whirl of impressionistic images inspired and informed by Brian Easdale’s marvellous score. Only after seeing this, so the story goes, was Gene Kelly able to see how he could make An American in Paris.

The melodramatic plot, metaphorically acted out in the "Red Shoes Ballet" then re-enacted for real by the main characters, presents Great Art as something worth dying for, and, in the person of Anton Walbrook’s Lermontov, gives us a portrait of the artist as a man for whom anything and everything is worth sacrificing in its pursuit. Loosely based on Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, Walbrook’s magnetic central performance is of sufficient stature to conceal the rather trite predicament of his ballerina protégée, and the film’s contrived, over-the-top tragic ending.

The Red Shoes is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. It’s one of the BFI’s Top 10 British films and won 2 Oscars. The film has been restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive in association with The British Film Institute, The Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd. and Janus Films. This version of the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival 2009 in the prestigious Cannes Classic slot and was introduced by Martin Scorsese

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