The Red Shoes
Despite the marathonic attention afforded to British film makers Powell and Pressburger by the Filmspotting faithful, 1948's "The Red Shoes" was my first foray into their acclaimed canon. In the film, Moira Shearer plays Vicky Page, a young dancer prematurely promoted to play the lead in a new ballet called "The Red Shoes" following a fallout between the ballet company's prima ballerina and it's Svengali-like impresario, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). Lermontov also engages a talented yet inexperienced composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) to write the music for the adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson macabre fairy tale. Despite Lermontov's warning, "a dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer", the inevitable happens when Vicky and Julian fall for each other and a tug a war for Vicky Page's heart begins.
In what may seem a brave directorial decision, The Archers (Powell and Pressburger) dedicate 18 minutes of screen-time to "The Red Shoes" ballet, breathtakingly choreographed by Australia's (Sir) Robert Helpmann. It is a truly transcendent masterstroke and easily the highlight of the film, full of imagination and with immaculate execution from the three principal dancers, Moira Shearer, Leonide Massine and Robert Helpmann. Shearer and Helpmann are fantastic and Massine is spellbinding as the demented shoemaker.
Despite the fairly simple plot and telegraphed ending (not to mention the infamous red shoe plot inconsistency), this film is definitely worthy of its acclaim. Is it enough to persuade me to try another Archer sample? Only time will tell...