Parents' Guide to

The Red Shoes

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Bittersweet but enthralling ballet drama.

Movie NR 1948 133 minutes
The Red Shoes Poster Image

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age 10+

Based on 1 parent review

age 10+

Pure Magic!

Not as dark, yet definitely as disturbing as Black Swan. I had no idea what's this movie about, or what to expect of it. All I had known about this movie before watching is that it's hailed as one of the best-looking movies ever, and I couldn't agree more. This movie was shot in three-strip Technicolor, and it doesn't just look good for its time, but it dazzles and mesmerizes as if it was shot this year! It is simply one of the most beautiful movies to date. The Red Shoes is a visual carnival full with vibrant, and consistent colors that will easily captivate you as well as its characters. From the first scene I could see that the characters would be fully fleshed-out at the end of the movie. Powell and Pressburger's screenplay, who also directed the movie, gave our three main characters a lot of depth that they can be analyzed, while also balancing between them, and that by making them equally important to the main plot. Each one of the main characters has their own subplots, but I never felt there's a subplot that seems forced, or outbalance another. That wouldn't be achieved without the impeccable direction that walks a thin line between quirkiness and darkness. The theatrical performances are completely intentional. They make me feel uneasy because the subject matter is so dark and serious. These contradictory moods made the movie painful and disturbing in its own way. Maybe in a way that kinda resembles dark comedies. You'll know that such decision is appropriate when the credits roll. You'll get a very agonizing and maddening feeling! Anton Walbrook delivered one of the best over-the-top performances ever as Boris Lermontov, a very complex, and compelling character that is hard to be understood. The only hammy performance that I couldn't stand is Ludmilla Tchérina's. What a highly melodramatic! It's really unbearable and annoying. Between all the theatrical performances, this just feels off, and awkward. Marius Goring and Moira Shearer gave fantastic and appealing performances. Grischa, played by Leonide Massine, was such a very interesting character; he is the comic-relief, but it's a character that seems if it is came out of a literary work. It made me see all the other characters differently. I saw them as I saw Grischa; fictional literary characters, and it really made sense! Grischa was the key that made me see how Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger blur the barriers between cinema and literature, or theater, in a very smooth way. Powell and Pressburger proved that cinema is a real magic, and "The Red Shoes" ballet sequence is more than a fine example. I won't be exaggerate, even a little bit, if I said that this 15-min-long sequence is one of, if not the most enthralling and spellbinding sequences ever shot! 15 minutes of visual storytelling at its best. I was just hypnotized, and I wish it would never end. The Red Shoes is also masterfully edited. In fact, the editing is one of the main reasons this movie is timeless. The switching between one scene to another is very slick and smooth; however, there are many continuity editing glaring errors. Despite how simple this issue seems, I found that it's so obvious, and quite annoying, that I can't avoid mentioning it. All I can say is that The Red Shoes is an idiosyncratic piece of work that will never age. (9/10)

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Is It Any Good?

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The Technicolor cinematography glows, and the "Red Shoes" ballet sequence is astounding. Admirers put the British-made RED SHOES on equal footing with Gone With the Wind as a big-budget, sprawling epic of pathos, romance, love, and loss that represents intelligent, mainstream commercial cinema at its best (and, like GWTW, it was made while postwar Europe struggled through agonizing economic malaise and rationing). As with so many MGM musicals from Hollywood, what we see, though supposedly a "stage" show, opens up into miles of sets, multiple angles, and f/x (a discarded newspaper that morphs into a man) that could only happen in the movies (though this may represent Victoria's state of mind as she gradually surrenders her grip on reality to the fairy-tale world of the dance).

While you don't have to enjoy ballet to enjoy this movie, it definitely helps, and generations of young dancers have cited this film as an inspiration –- even with the decidedly sad finale, itself true to so many ballets like "Romeo & Juliet" and "Swan Lake" that end in casualties.

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