The Red Shoes – 1948 – dir Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
In The Red Shoes (1948), director Michael Powell explores the apparent lack of balance in the life of a young dancer’s life. Drawing parallels between the story by Hans Christian Andersen of a girl consumed by the need to dance, Powell has Vicky (Moira Shearer) dance her way through a lush, intricate, dream-like twenty-minute ballet sequence where the dimensions of the stage stretch into infinity and the ocean itself, substituting for her audience, roars approval for her grace and beauty. It takes some effort to come back from this exhilarating dance sequence to the mundane world of show schedules and dance rehearsals, where most of the action in The Red Shoes takes place. And this is Michael Powell’s great achievement, the way in which he, working closely with choreographer Robert Helpmann, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, art director Arthur Lawson and production designer Hein Heckroth, infuses a film which deals with the realities of a ballet company with a strong, visibly palpable dose of fantasy.
The Red Shoes -1948 – dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
“Why do you want to dance?” asks Anton Walbrook as the ballet impresario Boris Lermontov in an early scene of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 classic The Red Shoes. “Why do you want to live?” is the immortal reply from flame-haired Moira Shearer’s Victoria Page, her words pinpointing the themes that The Red Shoes holds closest to its heart. That moment, and the film as whole, has carried incredible resonance for those who make or love art of any kind, those who see little to no difference between the will to create and the will to live.
Ballets Russes – 2005 – dir. Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine
You need not be an aficionado of classical dance or even know much about ballet to appreciate the joyous celebration that is Ballets Russes. Documentaries of this sort have a way of making the past “quaint”, almost falsely charming. Not so this one! A welcome breath of fresh air, it fairly floats along on a cloud of exuberance and real nostalgia for a kind of glamour now gone from our stages and from our world. Continue reading →
In 2007 National Public Radio played an excerpt of Fred Astaire singing “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and asked listeners to describe in a single phrase the quality of his voice. One participant’s entry was, “The boyfriend you longed for before you found out about sex.”
Donald Spoto, in his biography of Audrey Hepburn, describes her one-time co-star as having “nothing erotic or even sensual about him… Fred Astaire was a gentleman up there on the screen—so much a gentleman, in fact, that there was never an atom of erotic appeal about him.”