The Greatest Stories Ever Told

The 2010 Paramount Summer Film Classics

The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Madness: 'The Red Shoes'

It's the ultimate internal battle royale for members of the creative class: Art vs. Heart. Emergent ballerina Vickie Page (real-life British ballerina Moira Shearer) must choose between her love of dance and the love for the man whose music inspires her – her company's young, talented, and impetuous composer, Julian Craster (Marius Goring). To complicate matters, her dance career is in the hands of the demanding Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), a character cast from the classic Svengali mold, all head and dark heart, entangled and twisted by his desire to live his dreams through his young protégé. The two young people are swept up in an impulsive love affair amid the vapor trails of their rising stars, and this displeases the controlling Lermontov. Georges Polti might have a field day labeling this plot as it chassés from Ambition to Mistaken Jealousy to possibly even (spoiler alert) Fatal Imprudence within its 133-minute span. The show within a show unfolds as the ballet Craster scores and Page stars in is The Red Shoes, the story of an aspiring dancer who dons magical ruby kicks only to find that the shoes never grow tired, even after she does. The original Hans Christian Andersen version ends with the heroine getting her feet cut off. This version is no less tragic. The Archers (the shared credit name of writers, directors, and producers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) present the ballet in an unprecedented and uninterrupted 17-minute bit of Technicolor majesty, blurring cinema and theatre, Vickie's heart-wrenching plight deciding between the attention and affection of two very selfish men and the fairy-tale narrative. It is the film's story within a story within a story, as the entire stage and backdrop come to life as newspapers, tabloids, bills, and flyers move from their own volition, caught in the swirl, following Vickie through her danse macabre. The red shoes themselves take on life as they beckon the dancer toward the end of her own. Last year, the masterpiece underwent a meticulous, frame-by-frame restoration at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, making available, for the first time in a generation, prints of vibrant colors as they were intended to be seen.


The Red Shoes screens Saturday, Aug. 14, 5:20pm, and Sunday, Aug. 15, 1:30 & 7:40pm.

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