opening night screening in UCLA's new series Archive Treasures: 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The crowd came out to see UCLA's gorgeous restored 35mm print of Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES (1948).
I'm a great admirer of Powell and Pressburger's I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945), but this was my very first time to see THE RED SHOES. On the surface the two films are very different; one is a black and white film about a very practical young woman, the other a Technicolor movie about a dreamy yet dedicated girl, but the films share an otherworldly quality, casting a magical spell over the viewer.
Vicky dances for Lermontov's ballet company and has a huge success in the ballet "The Red Shoes," a 17-minute showstopper which comes in the middle of the film.
Vicky and company composer Julian (Marius Goring) fall in love and marry, but the jealous Lermontov plots to break them up. Lermontov wants both Vicky and Julian to give their all to art, not their relationship...although it's implied he has romantic feelings for Vicky himself. It's unclear whether he longs for her artistic abilities or her personally; perhaps both. Although Vicky and Julian resist Lermontov's pressure, eventually Vicky is lured back to dance for Lermontov once more...
double bill of GILDA (1946) and THE BIGAMIST (1953) this evening -- I nonetheless very much enjoyed it.
The Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff is every bit as stunning as I'd read over the years, and in my slightly hazy state it was almost a surreal experience, having all that dreamlike color simply washing over me. The shots of Shearer, in particular, were simply exquisite. This is a movie I'll definitely need to see again, probably multiple times, to take it in more deeply.
That said, while the theme of obsession -- with dance, music, love -- lures in the viewer and casts its spell, my only real problem with the movie was when I was struck by how unrealistic Lermontov's power was. Certainly, he had Vicky's contract and was a powerful force in their world, but realistically it's hard to imagine someone with Vicky's talent not ultimately building a career elsewhere. Lermontov holding all the eggs in his basket, so to speak, didn't make sense to me, but then again the movie is a bit of a dream so you just go along with it.
Goring, seen by me in films such as CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951) and SHOOT FIRST (1953), is a charismatic actor. He and Shearer share one of the loveliest romantic scenes I've ever watched.
THE RED SHOES was preceded by the seven-minute George Pal Puppetoon SKY PRINCESS (1942), which was simultaneously nutty and very entertaining, with a wonderful use of Tschaikovsky. It was a perfect start to the evening. It's currently available on YouTube.
Happily THE RED SHOES is on my friend Kristina's list of "10 Classics" to see in 2015, as posted at her blog Speakeasy, and she'll have her own review of the movie up later this weekend, which I'll be linking to when it's posted. Update: Here is Kristina's piece on the movie!
THE RED SHOES is available from the Criterion Collection on both DVD and Blu-ray. Given the film's Technicolor beauty and strong reviews for the Blu-ray, this is a film I would imagine is worth the added expense of a Blu-ray purchase.
It can also be rented for streaming at Amazon Watch Instantly.