THE RED SHOES know where they are going

A gorgeous new print of THE RED SHOES (1948) is having a two week run at the Film Forum, thanks to Martin Scorsese’s longtime passion for the film. Written, directed and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the story follows a young ballerina as she struggles to balance her obsession for dancing with her love life, ultimately leading to her downfall. The famous exchange early in the film between the ballerina Victoria Page (played by Moira Shearer) and the ballet company impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) is hard to forget. “Why do you want to dance?” he asks. “Why do you want to live?” she fires back.

The film is a frenzy of color and visual feasts as Powell and Pressburger take liberties to defy reality in the service of emotion. As Vicky dances across the stage, the structural limits disappear and her passion transports her into another world.  Here’s the trailer:

If you are charmed by THE RED SHOES, you may want to check out their less well known film I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING (1945). One of my favorites, it stars Wendy Hiller as Joan Webster, a spirited and confident young Englishwoman who thinks she knows where she’s going (to marry a wealthy older man) but along the way discovers that she might want to rethink her plan. Powell and Pressburger seem to have an affinity for the ambitious heroines of their films and they portray them in appealing ways. In THE RED SHOES we revel in Vicky’s soaring passion while it lasts, not just for another man, but for power, for creative expression, for recognition. In I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING, Joan’s ambition, though somewhat misguided, is dramatized in magical visual sequences.

When Scorsese made the comment, “It’s cinema as music,” he was at the DGA theater in New York introducing a screening of THE RED SHOES.  He could have just as easily been talking about the following scene: