My bruised rib and I are back in New York City once more. While it continues to heal, I have already started rehearsing for another show - another fast-paced, energetic production rife with rib-bruising opportunities. Performing as part of the NY Comic Book Theater Festival, Batz follows a bunch of nerdy office workers as they pay homage to the Dark Knight by re-enacting classic Batman comics using only office supplies for props and costumes.
After a short hiatus, I continued yesterday with my review of 1948's nominees for Best Picture by watching...
The Red Shoes
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Keith Winter
(based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson)
Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook, Leonide Massine, Robert Helpmann, Albert Bassermann, Esmond Knight, Ludmilla Tcherina
2 wins, for Best Art Direction and Best Original Score
Before Black Swan grabbed the tragic ballerina mantle, there was The Red Shoes. This much-revered classic of British cinema centres on the Ballet Lermontov, a touring company headed by perfectionist taskmaster Boris Lermontov (Walbrook). New to the company are Vicky Page (Shearer), an up-and-coming ballerina with an innate love of dance, and Julian Craster (Goring), a budding young composer hired as the orchestral coach. Soon, Julian is entrusted with composing the score for a new ballet based on the tragic story The Red Shoes, which will see Vicky dance the leading role. When Vicky and Julian fall in love, Boris is furiously opposed to the affair, believing romance to be a fatal distraction for any artist.
With its spectacular design and cinematography, The Red Shoes is visually stunning. The vibrant colours are particularly striking for a film of this vintage. As a film about ballet, it unsurprisingly also features a great deal of delightful music and dancing, including an elongated sequence that presents an actual staged ballet, which brings us to the subject that will occupy the majority of this review.
Now, I'm by no means a ballet fan, but it's hard to deny that the presentation of The Red Shoes as a ballet is simply exquisite. Extravagant and innovative, it utilises creative special effects along with accomplished choreography to produce a truly magical experience. Gratuitous, but magical nonetheless. Undoubtedly, this picture paved the way for the final dance sequence in An American In Paris three years later, a similarly spectacular yet gratuitous display.
The problem, if you can even call it a problem, is mostly due to the way in which this sequence oddly disassociates itself with reality. As visually pleasing as the cinematic effects are, they push the film into surreal territory by presenting instantaneous costume changes on stage and stunning visions of beach scenes superimposed over the audience. On their own, these events add to the magic of the sequence, but in the context of a live staged performance, they are a little confusing. Yet, we don't appear to be in the world of The Red Shoes, either, since Vicky experiences hallucinatory visions during the performance of Craster and Boris, who are clearly not characters within the narrative of the fairy tale. So, are we in the world of the fairy tale or the world of the Ballet Lermontov? The answer seems to be "neither".
I am left in two minds about The Red Shoes. I genuinely enjoyed both the magical ballet sequence and the intriguing narrative. Considered separately, they are equally engrossing, yet somehow, they don't quite fit together perfectly.
(For an interesting perspective on the similarities between The Red Shoes and Black Swan - apart from the similar publicity shots - check out Andrew O'Rourke's article on The Playground.)