Review: The Red Shoes (1948)

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I’m a fan of black or white shoes personally, red is a wee bit too flashy for my tastes!

Screenplay By: Emeric Pressburger & Keith Winter
Directed By: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

I realized the moment that The Red Shoes finished I was going to upset a lot of people when I wrote my review. I don’t like upsetting people, those who know me well probably don’t believe that, but I really don’t. However, there is a reason why movies are so terribly subjective and why even the most revered of movies don’t work for some people. I understand that The Red Shoes is such a revered movie that is held in high regard as an all-time classic. Unfortunately, not very much about The Red Shoes worked for me. I was bored most of the time, had no interest in the romantic lead, and couldn’t get into any of the allegories being presented. I’m not saying that The Red Shoes is a bad movie, because I recognize the technical craft on display, but it’s not a movie that worked for me.

The Red Shoes did look marvelous, brilliant colors splashing across the screen. Bright blues, flamboyant yellows, and the reddest hair this side of Carrot Top. The ballet portions of The Red Shoes were obviously very detailed and well choreographed. Moira Shearer was charming as the young Victoria Page while Anton Walbrook was mesmerizing as the domineering Boris Lermontov. Walbrook was so good in his role that he almost made me like this movie, but he couldn’t push me past almost. I also thought the supporting cast was filled with some interesting characters and some actors who knew how to play their parts. Like I said earlier, The Red Shoes wasn’t a bad movie.

But, there was far too much about The Red Shoes that I didn’t like for me to classify it as a good movie. First there is the story, that never really takes off because Marius Goring is an incredibly weak romantic lead as Julian Craster. I never bought into him sweeping Victoria off her feet and driving her away from dancing, nor did I ever buy him having the gall to stand up to Mr. Lermentov for even a second. The movie ends up being a tad too long, going past the point of originality and reducing itself to a series of redundancies as Lermentov spouts off the same diatribe about love and dancing again and again. Outside of the ballet, the scenery is a bit too plain and far too Monaco cheap. Lastly, and I know this is the main reason people will hate my take on The Red Shoes, the extended ballet number didn’t do anything for me. I’ve never been a fan of the extended ballet number that stops the rest of the picture, like in An American In Paris or Singin’ In The Rain, and the number in The Red Shoes is no exception. It was well choreographed, but since I didn’t care about where the story was going, and wasn’t invested in any of the allegory being put forth it came across as another excess that I didn’t feel the need to make time for. Harsh on my part I am sure, but no matter how well put together a dance sequence may be, if I don’t care about said dancing or its implications then it won’t resonate with me.

I’m sure any fans of the ballet, dance, or extended dance numbers in musicals will love The Red Shoes. I didn’t, it is a well made movie, but too often it felt to me like it was going through the motions. I place most of the blame for that on Marius Goring, because in a love story it’s essential that you care about and buy the main love interests. I’ve said it before, and been met with some derision, but when a movie hinges heavily on one actor delivering and that actor doesn’t deliver then the movie will suffer greatly as a result. The Red Shoes suffered greatly because of the failure of its main love story along with other elements that didn’t work. I wouldn’t recommend The Red Shoes, but I am not in the majority when it comes to the film and I’m sure many of my readers would get great enjoyment out of The Red Shoes.

Rating:

**1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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