Part of the 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen List.
The Red Shoes
dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1948) scr. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger and Keith Winter based on The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen cin. Jack Cardiff with Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, and Marius Goring
In 100 words: The peak of Powell and Pressburger’s magnificent work in the 1940s, The Red Shoes is like a beautiful nightmare: it starts as a depiction of artistic egos clashing while making art and then knocks you out with the stunning centerpiece ballet that forgoes realism and goes all out surrealism that’s as unnerving as it is gorgeous. The film posits art as an all-consuming lifetime obsession and the passionate use of Technicolor, hallucinatory visual effects, and detailed set designs and costumes certainly impress that. But it’s Shearer, who sells the passion and the later psychological fallout, that sticks to mind longest.
Other Films for Context: I’ve seen Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010), which is the most similar depiction of artistic obsession with ballet, if more obviously horrific than this one’s subtle creepy one. Otherwise, Powell and Pressburger’s films are pretty great and straight-up pretty. If you want batshit cuckooness, check out Black Narcissus (1947). If you want a cutesy romantic movie, check out I Know Where I’m Going (1945). If you want life-affirming dramas, go for A Matter of Life and Death (1946).