It’s time for my third entry in the Hit Me with Your Best Shot film project done by Nathaniel over at the Film Experience
I’m really excited about this project because it is kind of like a book club- in that it is interesting to see what other people think about the same movie, all watching it at the same time. Plus, it introduces me to new films I might not have discovered on my own. I won’t be able to review every movie because of content (as last week’s Magic Mike selection demonstrated) but the one’s I can I’m very enthusiastic about.
This week’s choice is The Red Shoes which is a film made in 1948 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (known as The Archers) . It is a movie I admit I had never heard of before but of course it is a classic (so many of those it’s hard to keep track of all of them). And it is fortunately a classic for a reason. It is a stunning movie about passion, work, love and dance.
Frequent readers to this blog will already know one of my favorite topics in film is work. Why we work? How we balance work? When have we over-worked? How do you know what work to do? What is passion and what is too much? What about the doldrums when we are miserable at work? I love comedies, dramas, even cartoons about work.
Well, in The Red Shoes you have a woman that has an unusual job- she is a prima ballerina. At the beginning I was a little bit confused about who all the characters were and what was going on. If this happens to you stick with it. It all gets explained. The ballerina in question is named Victoria ‘Vicky’ Page (Moira Shearer) and through an aunt of hers she is introduced to Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). He is an eccentric strange man who’s obsession is having the greatest ballet company in all of France.
As the director he ends up giving Vicky a shot when his ballerina gets married and is fired (there is no option of a working woman in this film). Vicky’s first role is as the lead in a ballet called The Red Shoes based on the Hans Christen Andersen story. It is written by the conductor Julian Craster (Marius Goring) who is new to the ballet company like Vicky.
I don’t want to give too much away because I went into this movie completely fresh and I’m glad. Basically it is about Vicky’s battle between her love or personal life and her passion for dance or career. There is an extended ballet sequence which is a stunning surrealist masterpiece. I loved this shot from that dance. You can see both the home and the dance reaching out to Vicky.
There is also a great scene towards the end where Lermontov tells Vicky ‘you cannot live two lives’ and she must choose what she wants. (I have to admit I was a little bit let down by the ending but given it was 1948 it is kind of understandable). Even in modern times most working women will tell you ‘you can’t have it all’. Something is always sacrificed whether it is work, family or both.
But my favorite shot from The Red Shoes is from the ballet. One of the things I noticed is whenever Vicky is dancing she is always smiling. You can tell she is so happy and perhaps that is the best litmus test of all? Whatever makes you happy than try do as much of that as you can…It may not be your career but make it the thing you work for.
In a way watching her dance reminded me of the movie Ed Wood (I know strange comparison but hear me out). He is so happy making his terrible movies. The smile on his face never leaves.
So rarely is great passion matched with talent, so especially in Vicky’s case she should embrace what gives her that big smile. That’s why I picked this shot. I love the dancing, red shoes and the smile.