Love hurts in The Red Shoes, the greatest film about ballet ever made.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1948 masterpiece, The Red Shoes feverishly explores the demands of art at the expense of personal life. "Why do you want to dance?" asks imperious artistic director Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) of flame-haired ballerina hopeful Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), who can answer only with another question: "Why do you want to live?"
Vicky is begrudgingly admitted into Lermontov's troupe, soon becoming its star while falling in love with the equally driven young composer, Julian (Marius Goring). Powell and Pressburger find as much drama and beauty backstage as on, their delirious spectacle culminating in the 17-minute dance of the title, based on Hans Christian Andersen's morbid tale of ballet slippers that drive the wearer to dance to her death.
Dance, girl, dance: Shearer, a performer with Sadler's Wells Ballet (later the Royal Ballet), took a year before agreeing to make her film debut at 21. Her auspicious bow in the seventh art would become ballet's most memorable depiction in film.
"You go too far," the film's original art director, Alfred Junge, told Powell about the brilliant, eye-popping design, seen here in a ravishing new 35 mm Technicolor restoration. (Junge was soon replaced with the painter Hein Heckroth as production designer.) And The Red Shoes turns out to be one of the greatest explorations of going too far in the name of creative mastery.
THE RED SHOES | Nuart | Sat. & Sun., 12 p.m., Wed., 2:15 p.m.
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes