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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 The Red Shoes Blu-ray release, see the The Red Shoes Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 8, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
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, November 8, 2011
Winner of Oscar Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Music, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes" (1948) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Carlotta Films. The supplemental features on the disc include an introduction by director Martin Scorsese; original theatrical trailer; video interview with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell; documentary film on the making of The Red Shoes; new featurette produced by Allerton Films; and a photo gallery. In English, with optional English and French subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
In 2009, 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 French distributors Carlotta Films.
The marvelous 2009 restoration of The Red Shoes arrives on Blu-ray in France rather late, but it is just as impressive as the Criterion and ITV DVD Blu-ray releases. Once again, detail is outstanding, clarity excellent and contrast levels effectively stabilized. I ran a few quick tests with my Criterion and ITV DVD releases and as far as depth and fluidity are concerned I could not see any notable differences - all three releases look phenomenal. There are, however, some minor discrepancies in the color-schemes. Generally, reds and browns are slightly more prominent on the Carlotta release, while on the Criterion release greens appear marginally stronger (compare screencapture #12 from our review of the Criterion release with screencapture #11). On the other hand, the blues and blacks on the Carlotta disc are identical to those of the ITV DVD release (compare screencapture #18 from our review of the ITV DVD release with screencapture #2). The reds and browns on the Carlotta release are also identical to those of the ITV DVD release. In other words, there is a very small difference in color nuance between the Carlotta release and the Criterion release, but everything else, from fine object detail to clarity and contrast levels, appears to be identical. Finally, there are no compression issues or other purely transfer-related anomalies to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 and French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Carlotta have provided optional French subtitles for the main feature.
The English LPCM 1.0 track has the same dynamic characteristics the English loseless track from the Criterion release boasts. Unsurprisingly, Brian Easdale's music score shines, while the dialog is consistently crisp, stable, and easy to follow. I quickly tested the French LPCM 1.0 track to hear how the film was dubbed, and all I could say is that there is a sea of difference in terms of quality - the dialog sounds rather thin and anemic while the music during the ballet sequence seems to be lacking depth.
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The marvelous 2009 restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's timeless The Red Shoes arrives on Blu-ray in France rather late, but it looks just as impressive as the Criterion and ITV DVD Blu-ray releases. French-speaking fans of The Red Shoes who could not take advantage of the Blu-ray releases mentioned above should definitely consider adding the Carlotta Films release to their collections. It is wonderful. (Take a look at the beautiful package in the screenshots section of our review). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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