Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Red Shoes (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)

A greatly entertaining Technicolor spectacle from the excellent British writing/directing team of Powell and Pressburger, this story of a dance troupe and its vaguely sinister leader, Boris Lermontov, bringing an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's harsh fairy tale to the stage is a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours, even if it lacks some of the depth of the other two Powell films I've seen ("The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," "Peeping Tom"). Technicolor was so rich and vibrant, it's a shame no one uses it anymore, and this film is a perfect example of its charms, especially in the surreal and frightening twenty-minute ballet sequence at the film's center. That's one of the two main reasons to see the film. The other is Anton Walbrook's performance as Lermontov. Most reviews paint Walbrook into the puppetmaster/shaman/Mephistopheles role, but I don't think that does justice to the complexity of his character, a man who is morally, sexually, and socially ambiguous and who seems to be a mystery even to himself. He's a three-dimensional character in a two-dimensional world and gives the film much of the greatness it otherwise narrowly misses.

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