Reviewed Mar 22, 2012
Jonathan Hutchings’s review:
An absolute awe-inspiring triumph. The Red Shoes is one of few films that genuinely obsesses over art as vocation, art as religion, and art as the purpose of life. It's a feast for the senses (the gorgeous cinematography, shot in technicolor by Jack Cardiff, the tremendous performances, punctuated by Anton Walbrook's Boris Lermontov, the outstanding dance choreography, and the exquisite, sweeping score by Brian Easdale). It's a film that's sprawling without feeling bloated, and majestic without losing its focus. Emeric Pressburger's story appears simple at first glance, but slowly unravels as a challenging study of the value and purpose of art, and of aestheticism as a creed. I've always respected the art of ballet, but never really took much of an interest in it. It's quite astonishing, then, that I was completely engrossed by the film's 15 minute performance of "The Red Shoes." The artistry of the dancing, the brisk pace, the intense storytelling, the enrapturing backdrops (however superimposed they may have been), were all absolutely riveting.
Clearly The Red Shoes inspired Black Swan. I contend that the latter not only owes a debt to the former, Swan owes it's entire existence to this Archers masterpiece. Not only did Aronofsky lift many of his sequences and storyboards from this film, the thematic concerns, the Bergman-esque exploration of the meaning of art, is virtually identical.
Throughout the years, the term "melodrama" has taken on a negative connotation (thanks Douglas Sirk), but The Red Shoes implores one to recognize that melodrama is extremely powerful if handled correctly. No wonder this film is held in such high esteem, not only as a British nature treasure, but as a classic of film itself. It's one of those rare gems that reminds you of why you love the cinema.