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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 July 26, 2009 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, July 26, 2009
ITV Global Entertainment bring to Blu-ray for the first time ever Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic "The Red Shoes" (1948). The film has been fully restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the British Film Institute, ITV Global Entertainment, and Janus Films. Funding for the restoration was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, and Louis B. Mayer Foundation. Amongst the special features on the Blu-ray disc are A Profile of The Red Shoes, The Ballet of The Red Shoes, Behind the Scenes gallery, Biographies and more. Region-B "locked".
Earlier this year, legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff passed away. Only a few weeks later, 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 and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic The Red Shoes arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors ITV DVD.
The Red Shoes was restored in partnership with UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the British Film Institute, The Film Foundation, Janus Films and ITV Global Entertainment, and as far as I am concerned, this true classic has never looked better.
There are a number of different areas from this presentation that will impress viewers enormously. In my opinion, the most dramatic improvements pertain to the film's color-scheme. Considering the film's age, blues, reds, yellows, greens, blacks and whites look incredibly lush and well saturated, allowing one to gain a whole new appreciation for what Jack Cardiff did many years ago. If only every Technicolor film could look this good! Contrast is also notably improved. I quick comparison between the old Criterion DVD and this new Blu-ray release immediately reveal that there is absolutely no basis for comparison between the two. Clarity and detail are also much stronger. Stability is also greatly improved. Those of you who own the Criterion DVD know that this is a major issue with it. On the Blu-ray disc, frame stability is most certainly not something you need to worry about. Finally, there are absolutely no annoying scratches, debris, dirt or stains to report in this review. As expected, the massive restoration has addressed what plagued previous prints of the film. (Note This is a Region-B "locked" release. Therefore, unless you have a native Region-B or Region-Free player, you won't be able to access the disc's content).
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0 Mono and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. I opted for the English LPCM 2.0 track and later on did a few random comparisons with the English Dolby Digital 2.0 track for the purpose of this review.
The audio treatment mirrors the video treatment - it is fantastic! The English LPCM 2.0 track is crisp and clear. It is also notably stable. Brian Easdale's music score in particular sounds incredible. There is depth and resonance on this track that I have not heard on previous commercial releases of the film. It is also worth mentioning that the high frequencies are not artificially sharpened. The dialog is crisp, clear and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues that I detected either.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is slightly less impressive. For example, the orchestra does not sound as potent and sharp as it is on the English LPCM 2.0 track. On the other hand, the dialog on the English Dolby Digital 2.0 track is dynamically comparable to what I heard on the English LPCM 2.0 track. This being said, there are a few minor synchronization problems that I noticed. For example, when Lermontov speaks, these are rather easy to spot (focus on his lips). Still, there are large portions of the film where it is incredibly difficult to spot what I have described above. Still, I assume that you would opt for the restored English LPCM 2.0 track, so you don't have to worry about what I've noted. For the record, ITV DVD have provided optional English HOH for the main feature.
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
A 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. (25 min, PAL).
Ballet of The Red Shoes - the ballet in stills. (PAL, 16 min).
Cannes 2009: Martin Scorsese introduction - a very short introduction by the American director, which he gave before the premiere of the restored version of The Red Shoes at this year's Cannes Film Festival. (PAL, 4 min).
Canners 2009: Thelma Schoonmaker - 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. (PAL, 15 min).
Trailer - (PAL, 4 min).
Photo galleries -
Star Profile Gallery -
The Red Shoes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It would be enormously disappointing if this fantastic, newly restored transfer of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic The Red Shoes remains exclusive to Region-B. Let's hope that because of Janus' involvement with the restoration, Criterion will delight us with yet another terrific Blu-ray package. For those of you residing in Region-B territories, The Red Shoes should be an essential addition to your libraries. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Red Shoes: Other Editions
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The Red Shoes Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Red Shoes Remastered Blu-ray Gets Detailed - May 28, 2009
ITV Global Entertainment has announced the special features for the Blu-ray release of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's Technicolor classic 'The Red Shoes', which is due to hit UK store shelves on June 29 (initially only at HMV), after having been painstakingly ...
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