Saturday, November 20, 2010
The Red Shoes is a movie about creation and obsession and the fine line between the two. It is, for my money, one of the most sensual movies ever made.
I would not be the first to call The Red Shoes a dream like movie. But what is often missed is how it is dreamlike. We are not speaking here of Carollian dream logic, and visual whimsy. But a dark and powerful undercurrent unable to be articulated except in images and symbols.
This is aided by Jack Cardiff, one of the greatest cinematographer’s of all time. The film as you will see was shot in three strip Technicolor. One of the most beautiful film stocks ever used, which to the feeling of dreamlike intensity that pervades the film. A feeling and technique that reaches its dizzying pitch at the ballet at the center of the film. A masterful sequence that we’ll discuss in more depth tomorrow.
It would be easy for the film’s overwhelming beauty and style to overpower the film, luckily the film has the strength both thematically and narratively to match the images.
It is no mistake that the film’s story, and the ballet the cast performs, is based upon a fairy tale. It is upon that same, primal, nearly mythic level that the story operates.
The story is a simple one, and one could see it, with a slight nudge of tone, easily fitting into an MGM musical with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. After all it is at the core, a love triangle between a plucky young musician, a girl he makes a star overnight, and the grumpy ole’ impresario who wants to split them apart.
What makes the movie a masterpiece is that unlike how the above scenario would be handled in America, The nature of the triangle here is not really a romantic or sexual one. At least not for Lermontov, the impresario, and not entirely for Ms. Page, the dancer, either. It’s not a question of love, Lermontov knows he will never create better for anyone else, while Ms. Page knows that no one will ever create better for her. Poor Julian Craster may make her happy, but he will never make her great. The question is which is more important. And the film provides no answer.
Really that is what The Red Shoes is. Nothing less than the greatest movie about artistic creation ever made. About the mania that fuels is, and the sacrifice that it requires. About the differences between those willing to dedicate the full of themselves to the ideal, and those who are merely dabbling. Much has been written about why what happens at the end happens. For me the answer is simple. Like the girl in the fable, she cannot have both the dance and a life. They exclude each other even if one without the other, is not worth it.
Her last desperate act melds the two, if only for a moment.
She is wearing the Red Shoes. What’s more she has chosen to wear them. You tell me if her fate could be any other.
Posted by Bryce Wilson at 1:23 PM