Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

United Kingdom 1948
Directed by
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
133 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Red Shoes

Possibly the most perfect conjunction in the Powell and Pressburger catalogue of subject matter and their uniquely emotive style is realized in this melodrama based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about a pair of enchanted ballet shoes.Whilst one doesn't need to be a balletomane  to enjoy the film as there is an extensive performance of the ballet to which the title refers it helps not to be actually averse to the form.

Whilst it has transposed elements of the familiar let's-put-on-a-show musical, somewhat tiresomely so, the floridly tragic ending goes well beyond Hollywood all's-well-that-ends-well confectionery. The film also cleverly utilizes the story-within-a-story format, with the Andersen's storyline being reflected in the main narrative theme of the relationship between a Svengali-like impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) and his protégé, Vicky Paige (Moira Shearer, a former Sadler's Wells ballerina making her screen debut).  Although represented here as heterosexual it recalls the infamous relationship between Diaghilev and Nijinsky and indeed the film is deliciously gay in many respects, not least thanks to the fruity performances of Walbrook, Robert Helpmann and Marius Goring as the young composer whose love for Vicky derails everyone's plans.

Jack Cardiff's photography is, of course, irreplaceable, with the directorial attention to pictorial composition equally outstanding. Hein Heckroth's and Arthur Lawson's art and set direction deservedly won them an Oscar but although nominated for Best Picture, the film lost to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet albeit due more to wartime patriotism than artistic deficiency.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst