By Philip Berk
Years ago, when Martin Scorsese and I were discussing our all-time favorite movies, the one that immediately popped up was The Red Shoes. We both marveled at the screenplay which juggles three subplots before the main focus of the story comes into play.
When the Film Foundation proposed that The Hollywood Foreign Press fund the restoration of the film, I wondered aloud, why a film, that even in its primitive VHS version was one of the most beautiful films ever made, would need restoration. Well, that question was answered when the restored film was screened both in Cannes, at its American premiere in Hollywood, and at the New York Film festival.
Ironically, what is universally considered the greatest ballet movie of all time had a checkered past when it was first released in 1948. Its London reception was decidedly chilly, and even middle-brow critics dismissed it as overly schmaltzy.
Only when it traveled to the U.S., where incidentally it was released by Eagle Lion, a B movie company, did it gain respectability, and in fact, it was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture.
Over the years the film has gained stature as one of the great movies of the post-war era. Towering among its many virtues is the superb screenplay by Emeric Pressburger (it’s a good twenty minutes before the central conflict kicks in) and the incomparable performance of Anton Walbrook as the obsessed Lermentov. But then there’s also the matchless Moira Shearer in her film debut, who did her own dancing; the exquisite score by Brian Easdale (who won a Golden Globe); the art direction of Hein Heckroth; and the photography of the legendary Jack Cardiff.
And above all is Michael Powell’s direction. This is his masterpiece. Here is one classic that has and will stand the test of time.
|12th April 2011,|