The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 32:35)
The Powell-Pressburger part of this marathon is one I've been particularly looking forward to for a while, based on my experience with Colonel Blimp, and I specifically had high expectations for this film. I didn't know that much about it, but the screenshots I had seen and the connection to Black Swan were quite enough. To say these were not quite met would be - as always with these things - quite unfair, but here we are nonetheless. I like this film, and I do think there is a decent chance I would like it more upon rewatching it in a few years, but I didn't connect to it as much as I hoped I would.
It comes down to the central ballet sequence, I think. It's a scene I should absolutely love, not only because it's quite impressive and inventive technically, but because it quite literally encapsulates the whole film. Maybe that's part of the issue, as The Red Shoes (the story) is quite aptly summarised by Lermentov in fifteen seconds, and the ballet itself doesn't really seem to bring much more to it. Yes, Moira Shearer was an amazing dancer, and yes, the Archers do neat (though somewht confusing) stuff by adding effects to it, but the idea of the red shoes taking control doesn't quite transcribe, for example. I don't know if it's ballet that's not didactic enough an art form for me or if the story just isn't that developped. In any case, the whole film rests on that sequence, and while it's a good one, it's not the masterpiece it would need to be - and I say this as someone who generally enjoys protracted stuff like this (see also: An American in Paris and A Star Is Born).
What does work great is Anton Wolbrook's performance. I was almost shocked when it became clear that his character was supposed to be the villain of the film, because I was so captivated by him, despite Lermontov being a theoretically typical tyrannical of an artist. I'd agree with Adam's interpretation of his feelings for Shearer's character: if he does love her, it translates for him in wanting to make her great, and to do that with him. Wolbrook brings something more to that part, makes you feel for the pain that he feels in seeing her get away from him, not so much because she could somehow not be a great artist without him, but simply because he wants to be the one to be accompanying her. Marius Goring is pretty good in a role that could easily come off as "bland protagonist we're supposed to root for but really don't care about", so that's a rather succesful "love" triangle, with Moira Shearer's acting being just good enough (helped by the very expressive makeup) to support her marvelous dancing.
As announced by Lermontov's summary of the Andersen story, the narrative here turns to the tragic, in ways that don't entirely work. What makes a tragedy is what happens to the protagonists, yes, but just as important is the feeling of inevitability, of implacapble destiny bringing us to the sad conclusion, and I don't know that it's entirely there. Narratively, yes, as we understand where this is going from the moment Lermontov casually mentions the ending of Andersen's story, but it's not quite there in the filmmaking... or rather, it's there and it isn't. I'm not sure exactly what makes me feel this way, because any time we go to a closeup of Moira Shearer, yes, we do feel the tragedy coming... but then the rest of the film is not quite as intense as that. Maybe it's the lack of a true villain: Wolbrook is too good for his part almost ? But I don't know that a tragedy needs a villain either... I don't know, the more I think about it, the less I understand why I ended up underwhelmed by it all. The weight of expectations, possibly, and I should say that I did like it quite a bit still, just not as much as it may deserve... I guess I'll have to revisit it somewhere down the line.7/10