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"THE RED SHOES"


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Glorious escapism, especially welcome right now, and scheduled for tonight, Monday @ 8:00 p.m. Eastern TCM.   

Oddly, I can't say that I'm overly fond of too many dance films per se,  despite sporadic ballet lessons and preoccupation as a child.  Still have my battered, frayed little leather ballet shoes.

But this "Shoes" is so over-heated, with that saturated color, and all those people in their insular, obsessive little world.  Director Michael Powell is so good at that--  look at "Black Narcissus".

Love Moira Shearer,  the exotic art direction, all the famous dance figures, the ambiguous relationships.

Oh, and the plummy accents, they're the plummiest...

Well, I don't expect somehow that this is a big favorite around here, but thought I'd alert it anyway.... 

red-shoes-2.jpg

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Lilypond: look no further than New Hampshire for a fan of this film.  

After 35 years of marriage, my wife finally took me at my word when I said "I can't dance."  But I love music -- classical music, especially -- and I am intrigued by the score to this film.  I'm always excited to see that film composers, such as Bernard Herrman and Brian Easdale, were able to put together convincing-sounding theater pieces that were needed for the films they were involved with.  That, for me,  ushers me into the falsely-shimmering world of Lermontov and his Ballet.

 I only saw this movie for the first time just a few years ago, but I'm hooked on the story and the characters.  The color and settings  from the Archers  is purely magical.  So, Lilypond, for all the things you mentioned first,  I'll stand with you in defense of this movie. 

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58 minutes ago, lilypond said:

 

Glorious escapism, especially welcome right now, and scheduled for tonight, Monday @ 8:00 p.m. Eastern TCM.   

Oddly, I can't say that I'm overly fond of too many dance films per se,  despite sporadic ballet lessons and preoccupation as a child.  Still have my battered, frayed little leather ballet shoes.

But this "Shoes" is so over-heated, with that saturated color, and all those people in their insular, obsessive little world.  Director Michael Powell is so good at that--  look at "Black Narcissus".

Love Moira Shearer,  the exotic art direction, all the famous dance figures, the ambiguous relationships.

Oh, and the plummy accents, they're the plummiest...

Well, I don't expect somehow that this is a big favorite around here, but thought I'd alert it anyway.... 

 

The Red Shoes gets a lot of love at this forum.     Most of that love is centered around cinematographer Jack Cardiff

Use the Search feature and you can find these post.

 

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What, Lily? No mention (other than his image) of Anton Walbrook in your OP here???

That guy was great in every movie I've ever seen him in.

(...and especially so in this film)

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Add me to the "love this film" club! It's been said that this film led to countless numbers of young girls wanting to attend ballet classes. I was one of them, except I was already 17 years old. I did it, though, but I had to take classes with a bunch of 7-8 year olds. 😄

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Thanks, Slayton, for the second on the music.  (And for the little nudge toward more fully acknowledging its artistry.)   Brian Easdale provided the music for many of the Powell and Pressburger films, but aside from that didn't seem to have a fairly well-established music career regarding the concert stage.  Strange, but I get the sense that there were some personal problems that the man was dealing with.

The music for "The Red Shoes" is what won me over initially when I first saw the film.  Starting with the little bit we hear for "Heart of Fire" this appears to be a kind of film music that we don't encounter all that often.  Certainly composers in the "classic period" of Hollywood -- Herrman, Steiner, Korngold, and many others -- were familiar with all forms of music and the various styles required to produce a convincing atmosphere to accompany the screen action and sentiment.  But by the time we get to the full-on ballet of "The Red Shoes," Easdale hits us with some top-notch musical ideas that are carried through with symphonic development.   As Slayton remarks, this more than likely could stand as an independent piece of music outside the film itself.  

So we've got music, color, photography, great dramatic performances, scenery...  What else?  Oh, yeah, the title cards with the opening credits.  They just pop right off the screen, don't they?

And one more thing before I forget.  As a retired pastry chef, I'm entranced by Grisha's birthday cake at his party.   Not quite big enough for Moira Shearer to pop out of; but a delightful bit of craftsmanship, nonetheless.  And I enjoy looking at it!

 

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"Goodnight, Boris" -- "Goodnight, Grisha"

"Goodnight, Boris" -- "Goodnight, Sergei"

Vicky:  "I didn't say goodnight to Lermontov!"

I'm a devoted Anton Walbrook fan -- love his many delicious, over-the-top, I might even say expressionistic, performances -- in this film, the original 1937 version of GASLIGHT, THE 49th PARALLEL, and in particular, QUEEN OF SPADES, among others.

 

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11 hours ago, Bronxgirl48 said:

"Goodnight, Boris" -- "Goodnight, Grisha"

"Goodnight, Boris" -- "Goodnight, Sergei"

Vicky:  "I didn't say goodnight to Lermontov!"

I'm a devoted Anton Walbrook fan -- love his many delicious, over-the-top, I might even say expressionistic, performances -- in this film, the original 1937 version of GASLIGHT, THE 49th PARALLEL, and in particular, QUEEN OF SPADES, among others.

 

And don't forget Walbrook's terrific performance in this film, Bronxie. All brilliantly done in one long take. Gets me every time I watch it...

(...this was the film that first brought forth my appreciation of his talents, and later would come via the films you mentioned above)

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23 hours ago, brianNH said:

Thanks, Slayton, for the second on the music.  (And for the little nudge toward more fully acknowledging its artistry.)   Brian Easdale provided the music for many of the Powell and Pressburger films, but aside from that didn't seem to have a fairly well-established music career regarding the concert stage.  Strange, but I get the sense that there were some personal problems that the man was dealing with.

The music for "The Red Shoes" is what won me over initially when I first saw the film.  Starting with the little bit we hear for "Heart of Fire" this appears to be a kind of film music that we don't encounter all that often.  Certainly composers in the "classic period" of Hollywood -- Herrman, Steiner, Korngold, and many others -- were familiar with all forms of music and the various styles required to produce a convincing atmosphere to accompany the screen action and sentiment.  But by the time we get to the full-on ballet of "The Red Shoes," Easdale hits us with some top-notch musical ideas that are carried through with symphonic development.   As Slayton remarks, this more than likely could stand as an independent piece of music outside the film itself.  

So we've got music, color, photography, great dramatic performances, scenery...  What else?  Oh, yeah, the title cards with the opening credits.  They just pop right off the screen, don't they?

And one more thing before I forget.  As a retired pastry chef, I'm entranced by Grisha's birthday cake at his party.   Not quite big enough for Moira Shearer to pop out of; but a delightful bit of craftsmanship, nonetheless.  And I enjoy looking at it!

 

It's not a big stretch to see he's emulating Stravinsky, especially in the "Heart of Fire"  ballet-let.  But he isn't just aping him,  The music for the "Red Shoes" ballet is fresh and exciting even today.  You start dancing inside along with Grisha the moment Craster plays the main theme for the first time.  It's a serious work, and that's what makes me wonder how such a terrific opportunity to create a ballet that could enter into the repertoire has been overlooked by so many for so long.  The movie I am sure is well know in ballet land.   

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On 11/22/2021 at 7:52 PM, slaytonf said:

More than that in this movie.  I've often wondered why nobody has taken the music from this movie and made a full ballet of it.

Actually PBS premiered the new, 2021 Mathew Bourne ballet in Sept based on the fairy tale and the movie.  It's not bad, but he used seqments from some of the lesser (IMO) Bernard Hermann scores,  and did NOT include the riveting music from the movie's ballet seqment. 😭  But it does follow the movie's storyline well.

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1 hour ago, dianedebuda said:

Actually PBS premiered the new, 2021 Mathew Bourne ballet in Sept based on the fairy tale and the movie.  It's not bad, but he used seqments from some of the lesser (IMO) Bernard Hermann scores,  and did NOT include the riveting music from the movie's ballet seqment. 😭  But it does follow the movie's storyline well.

Then it wasn't what I was talking about.  I'm not talking about making the movie into a ballet, I'm talking about making the movie's ballet into a full ballet.  Where did the Bernard Hermann music come from?

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9 hours ago, slaytonf said:

I'm talking about making the movie's ballet into a full ballet.  Where did the Bernard Hermann music come from?

The Bourne production was as close as I've seen to what you're talking about.  I'd like a full length ballet too, including the original ballet segment's music, but think it might be awkward adding compatible music when the movie is so well known.  The score mostly came from Farenheit 451 and Citizen Kane from what I saw in the credits.

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29 minutes ago, dianedebuda said:

The Bourne production was as close as I've seen to what you're talking about.  I'd like a full length ballet too, including the original ballet segment's music, but think it might be awkward adding compatible music when the movie is so well known.  The score mostly came from Farenheit 451 and Citizen Kane from what I saw in the credits.

Not to belabor the point, even though that's what I'm about to do,  most ballets reprise themes and passages often for the different actions. There is plenty in the movie to make for at least a one act ballet, say about an hour, which is what I think the story would support.  

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On 11/22/2021 at 6:43 PM, brianNH said:

Lilypond: look no further than New Hampshire for a fan of this film.  

After 35 years of marriage, my wife finally took me at my word when I said "I can't dance."  But I love music -- classical music, especially -- and I am intrigued by the score to this film.  I'm always excited to see that film composers, such as Bernard Herrman and Brian Easdale, were able to put together convincing-sounding theater pieces that were needed for the films they were involved with.  That, for me,  ushers me into the falsely-shimmering world of Lermontov and his Ballet.

 I only saw this movie for the first time just a few years ago, but I'm hooked on the story and the characters.  The color and settings  from the Archers  is purely magical.  So, Lilypond, for all the things you mentioned first,  I'll stand with you in defense of this movie. 

Brian,  that's so interesting that you mention your love of classical music in a post about The Red Shoes.  Also not surprising,  given a large part of the film's story is about a composer of classical music.

The  story within the story of The Red Shoes  ( because as we know, both the ballet in the film as well as the film itself bear that title) is , again as you likely are aware,  based on one of Hans Christian Andersen's tales.  Like many of Andersen's "fairy tales",  The Red Shoes has a macabre, even terrifying narrative, effectively reflected in that ballet version.

But - back to classical music -  the ballet's story also reminds me of Mahler's 4th symphony.  Not the music, but the story resembles the story my father used to tell when he'd play this symphony.  The way my dad told it,  it's about a little girl who cannot stop dancing,  she dances til she dies, then, the last movement, with the beautiful  singing,  is supposed to represent the child's spirit in heaven.

I realize that's kind of an intense interpretation of Mahler's 4th symphony, but that's the way my father told me the tale,  and for years I thought that was what Mahler had in mind when he wrote it.  Now I'm not so sure.  Regardless,  whenever I see the film The Red Shoes,  I think of both the tragic Andersen story,  and Mahler's 4th symphony.

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On 11/23/2021 at 11:56 PM, Allhallowsday said:

Of all of MICHAEL POWELL's films I've seen, THE RED SHOES was the first.  I think it was broadcast on Christmas day routinely for years in the Tri-State area.  I came to love MICHAEL POWELL's films... except THE RED SHOES. 

Really?  Not a very Christmassy movie  ( unless you count the luscious colour and the "bigness "  of the film's story-arc as Christmassy...)

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23 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

Brian,  that's so interesting that you mention your love of classical music in a post about The Red Shoes.  Also not surprising,  given a large part of the film's story is about a composer of classical music.

The  story within the story of The Red Shoes  ( because as we know, both the ballet in the film as well as the film itself bear that title) is , again as you likely are aware,  based on one of Hans Christian Andersen's tales.  Like many of Andersen's "fairy tales",  The Red Shoes has a macabre, even terrifying narrative, effectively reflected in that ballet version.

But - back to classical music -  the ballet's story also reminds me of Mahler's 4th symphony.  Not the music, but the story resembles the story my father used to tell when he'd play this symphony.  The way my dad told it,  it's about a little girl who cannot stop dancing,  she dances til she dies, then, the last movement, with the beautiful  singing,  is supposed to represent the child's spirit in heaven.

I realize that's kind of an intense interpretation of Mahler's 4th symphony, but that's the way my father told me the tale,  and for years I thought that was what Mahler had in mind when he wrote it.  Now I'm not so sure.  Regardless,  whenever I see the film The Red Shoes,  I think of both the tragic Andersen story,  and Mahler's 4th symphony.

That interpretation of Mahler 4 is likely because the last movement incorporates an earlier song Mahler wrote called "Das himmlische Leben" which means The Heavenly Life, and it's intended to be a child's vision of what heaven would be like.

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lilypond,  I wrote a detailed post about The Red Shoes  here a few years ago.  I tried to find it,  but that "search engine" james refers to is not very user-friendly.

So,  I believe I am a dissenting voice here.  I do not like The Red Shoes, and actually don't mind if I never see it again.  I don't mean to be disagreeable,  and I do respect the fact that you and others here love it,  but it's not for me.  Let me count the ways:

When you refer, in your as usual beautifully written post, to the characters as "all those people in their insular, obsessive world", you said it, baby ! But unlike you and I guess most people who've seen The Red Shoes,  I don't love that about the film, in fact almost all the c haracters annoy me.  I believe the word that applies to the characters and the film itself is "overwrought".   And you're right,  this overwrought quality appears in other Michael Powell movies,  notably, as you mentioned,  Black Narcissus.  I remember intensely disliking that film too.

I seem to be the odd man out,  but movies with a lot of extreme emotion, melodrama,  people so overcome with their feelings they don't know what to do with them, getting all het up about sex,  or their art,  or their lovers,  or people whom they want to become their lovers,  etc, etc.-- I have no patience with all that stuff,  I always want to roll my eyes and go,  "Oh come on, lighten up!"   There's another thread in this forum right now, discussing A Summer Place.  Although of course the two films are completely different,  they do bear that in common:  characters getting all worked up, throwing themselves about   ( sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) in a frenzy of angst... it all makes me roll my eyes.

That's not to say that I won't watch anything with strong emotions in it, but there's a certain over-the-top lushness to these kinds of films,  there's a wallowing in the characters' emotional dramas,  that just doesn't connect with me.  Sorry,  I don't want to be a Debbie Downer here, but I guess I'm just wondering if there's anyone else out there who feels that way about these excessive melodramatic films.

SPOILER:  also,  the other thing that really annoys me about The Red Shoes,  is the way Vicky is forced to decide between her dance career or her love for Julian.  I know it was made in 1948,  when attitudes around women combining a career and marriage were very very different than they are today.  But even acknowledging that,  I just think it's so unnecessary that Vicky feels she has to throw herself in front of a train  ( no, wait,  the shoes did it !) rather than decide what to do.  Why didn't she just tell Julian she was committed to dance, at least for that performance, and they'd work things out afterwards ?   A very mundane and boring solution,   I know.    But everyone in the film is so damn earnest !  It just irritates me. Sorry, I do respect that you and many others here are huge fans of the film. 

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8 hours ago, txfilmfan said:

That interpretation of Mahler 4 is likely because the last movement incorporates an earlier song Mahler wrote called "Das himmlische Leben" which means The Heavenly Life, and it's intended to be a child's vision of what heaven would be like.

Thanks,  txfilmfan,  you're right.  That part of the story around the 4th movement is documented.  What I'm not sure about is the rest of the story, as my father related it to me while he was playing the record.  He narrated a tale about a little girl who is given a pair of shoes by an evil magician, she cannot stop dancing once she puts them on, nor can she take them off.  She dances til she dies of exhaustion, then her spirit ascends to heaven - and  we get  that indeed heavenly singing, so beautiful.

...Maybe my father had recently viewed The Red Shoes on the late show or something the night before he told me this story.

He also told me that Mahler had a daughter who died when she was very young,  and the symphony was one way of expressing his grief.

edit:   Ok, but it looks as though he wrote the 4th symphony several years before his daughter died.  So I fully concede I don't know what I'm talking about.  blame my dad !

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MissWonderly, thank you for your responses toward some comments I had made.  I appreciate your point of view on these things, and I'll add a bit more later on.

Now I'll admit that  "The Red Shoes" is overwrought: and I, too, share your aversion to such display being paraded through many movies.  Yet somehow, given the style and artistic vision that the Archers group brings to this movie -- as well as to "Black Narcissus" --  I'm with them straight down the line.  I know if had a neighboring office cubicle with any of these chucklehead characters, I wouldn't be   able to hold my tongue very long before I just came out with "Your life is going down the toilet! Snap out of it!"

But the raw emotions and motivations are so operatically spun out, that it works for me if I accept it on those terms.  And I do.  It doesn't work for me with a film such as "A Summer Place," even though that one has a terrific cast.  I can watch that movie, but I don't become so engulfed in it as I do for the Powell/Pressburger works.  Maybe because "The Red Shoes" and "Back Narcissus" lay bare the human heart and mind in such a way that I can't look away from the existential struggle going on in all the characters.  

Ok, so for our next Friday pizza night, we won't schedule "The Red Shoes."  Perhaps there is another type of footwear that will go nicely with a Dr. Oetker.  Worth a shot, anyway.

Thanks, MissWonderly.

 

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