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The Red Shoes(1948)
Michael Powell directs Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a famous ballerina who must choose between art and love filmed in glorious Technicolor Jack Cardiff cinematography.
For more about The Red Shoes and The Red Shoes Blu-ray release, see The Red Shoes Blu-ray Review
Starring: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Robert Helpmann, Albert Bassermann, Ludmilla Tchérina
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
» See full cast & crew
The Red Shoes Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 10, 2010
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes" (1948) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie, featuring stars Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Martin Scorsese; actor Jeremy Irons reading excerpts from Powell and Pressburger's 1978 novelization of "The Red Shoes"; restoration demonstration hosted by director Martin Scorsese; interview with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell; documentary on the making of the film; stills gallery; photos of items from Martin Scorsese's memorabilia collection; production designer Hein Heckroth's animated film "The Red Shoes sketches"; and theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 24-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Last year legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff passed away. Only a few weeks after his funeral, a newly restored print of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's beloved classic The Red Shoes, one of many films Mr. Cardiff worked on, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. I want to believe that somehow Mr. Cardiff saw the restored print in its entirety.
The Red Shoes is comprised of two different stories. The first one is rather dark and unsettling. It is about a young and very ambitious ballerina, Mrs. Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), who impresses the great impresario Mr. Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). When his prima ballerina announces that she is going to get married, Mr. Lermontov gives Mrs. Page a chance to shine.
The young ballerina does not disappoint. Mr. Lermontov is so impressed with her performance that he immediately decides to stage Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes, a magical tale about a pair of shoes that transform the person who wears them into a brilliant dancer. When rehearsals begin, however, Mrs. Page falls in love with the ballet company's newly appointed conductor, Julian Craster (Marius Goring). Mr. Lermontov goes berserk and confronts the couple, insisting that Mrs. Page must choose between ballet and the man she loves.
The second story in the film is the one of the actual ballet, The Red Shoes. It cannot be described with simple words. One has to see the ballet in order to fully understand why Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's film is considered as one of the greatest cinematic achievements.
During the years, The Red Shoes has been praised for its stylish symbiosis of dance and music, innovative use of color and brilliant photography. Countless articles have been written about Moira Shearer, Leonide Massine, and Robert Helpmann. In 1949, Brian Easdale rightfully won an Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture that inspired many young composers.
What is often neglected by those who have praised The Red Shoes, however, is the fact that the film is also an effective drama, one with unusually complex characters. Furthermore, The Red Shoes also harbors serious themes about commitment, responsibility and the meaning of life.
These two contrasting sides of The Red Shoes - one preoccupied with art and beauty, the other focused on a tragic but realistic love affair - are what makes the film so fascinating to behold. The masterful blending of the surreal with the real is indeed very effective.
Undoubtedly the Archers' best film, The Red Shoes offers spectacular views from a number of locations - Monte Carlo, London, and Paris. Cinematographer Jack Cardiff's camera speed manipulations - meant to convince the viewer that the dancers were indeed capable of hanging in the air - were considered groundbreaking at the time.
In the United States, The Red Shoes enjoyed an unprecedented 110-week run at The Bijou in New York City before it was picked up for national distribution by Universal Pictures. Since then, it has inspired a number of successful Broadway musicals.
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created from the 2009 4K digital restoration made from the original Techniocolor negatives and optical tracks. The Red Shoes was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the BFI, the Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films. Restoration funding was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation. Restoration supervised by: Robert Gitt, with the assistance of Barbara Whitehand. Digital colorist: Ray Grabowski/Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, Burbank, CA. Film color timing: David Cetra/Cinetech, Valencia, CA. Digital audio restoration: John Polito. Digital Picture Restoration: Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, in association with Prasad Corporation Ltd. (India) and MTI Film".
I decided to name the parties involved with this project so that people could get a good idea of how important the restoration of The Red Shoes was. Hopefully, once you see the final product you would be as pleased as I am.
The high-definition transfer looks solid. Detail is fantastic, clarity very impressive and contrast levels simply wonderful. The color-scheme, however, is where the most serious improvements are - blues, reds, yellows, greens and blacks look lush and notably rich.
This high-definition transfer appears to be practically identical to the one ITV used for their Blu-ray release of The Red Shoes in the United Kingdom. I did not see any serious fluctuations in the color-schemes. Contrast levels and clarity look very similar as well. Blown through a digital projector, the two high-definition transfers also convey similar depth and fluidity. To sum it all up, I am convinced that film aficionados residing in Region-A territories will be very impressed with this wonderful release. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM Mono. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
I do not have any major reservations with the English LPCM track. The dialog is crisp, clean, clear and stable. Brian Easdale's music score also sounds very good. Generally speaking, the dynamic amplitude of the English LPCM track is almost identical to that found on the ITV Blu-ray release. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings to report in this review.
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - a wonderful audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie featuring stars Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Martin Scorsese. It was recorded exclusively for Criterion in 1994, and it also appears on the old SDVD release of The Red Shoes.
The Red Shoes Novel - an audio recording, made exclusively for Criterion in 1994. Here, actor Jeremy Irons reads excerpts from Powell and Pressburger's 1978 novelization of The Red Shoes. You could watch the film and listen to the recording.
Restoration demonstration - a short program, hosted by director Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of Film Foundation, offering a fascinating look at the restoration treatment The Red Shoes received. In English, not subtitled. (5 min, 1080p).
Profile of The Red Shoes - a very good documentary on the making of The Red Shoes, produced in London in 2000. The program features interviews with film historian Ian Christie, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, camera operator Chris Challis, and family members of the film's original production team. In English, not subtitled. (26 min, 1080i).
Thelma Schoonmaker Powell - Michael Powell's widow and close friend of Martin Scorsese talks about The Red Shoes and why it was important that the film was restored. In English, not subtitled. (15 min, 1080i).
Stills gallery -
-- Cast and Crew
-- Filming in London
-- Filming in Paris
-- Filming in Monte Carlo
-- Deleted scenes (in B&W)
-- Production and costume designs
Scorsese's Memorabilia - a very unusual collection, containing the red ballet slippers worn by Moira Shearer in the film; Emeric Pressburger's personal copy of the The Red Shoes script; annotated technical design storyboards for the key ballet sequence; etc. (1080p).
The Red Shoes sketches - this animated film, constructed from production designer Hein Heckroth's original color storyboards and set to Brian Easdale's score, was used as the blueprint for the Red Shoes ballet in the film. The film can be viewed with the Jeremy Irons reading of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes", and side by side with the actual film. A short text introduction is included as well. (16 min, 1080p).
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for the film. In English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).
Booklet - a 24-page illustrated booklet containing David Ehrenstein's essay "Dancing For Your Life" (the author has been writing about film since 1965, for such publications as Film Culture, Film Quarterly, Film Comment, Cahiers du cinema, and Positif. His books include "The Scorsese Picture: The Art and Life of Martin Scorsese" and "Open Secret: Gay Hollywood, 1928-2000".
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Simply put, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes belongs in every respectable film collection. Criterion have produced yet another spectacular package that I have a feeling will end up being amongst the ten best releases of the year. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion's Three Reasons Trailer: The Red Shoes - March 17, 2011
The Criterion Collection has created a new "Three Reasons" trailer, this time for a title already available: The Red Shoes, released by the studio in July 2010. This trailer expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's ...
• Criterion Reveals July Blu-ray Slate - April 15, 2010
The Criterion Collection has announced three films for release on Blu-ray. On July 20, the studio will release two Technicolor classics directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger: Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948). One week later, it will release ...
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