Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's most celebrated Technicolor fairy-tale, The Red Shoes is both metaphor and melodrama of unparalleled boldness. So extravagantly theatrical a movie was regarded as simply unreleasable by the Rank Organisation back in 1948, but in spite of their attempted suppression it has long since been acknowledged as one of British cinema's landmark achievements. Not only were Powell and Pressburger unorthodox enough to populate the cast with real ballet dancers (including the radiant Moira Shearer in the pivotal role), they built the whole film around an extraordinarily daring 17-minute ballet sequence in which the camera moves from outside the proscenium arch into a subjective whirl of impressionistic images inspired and informed by Brian Easdale's marvellous score. Only after seeing this, so the story goes, was Gene Kelly able to see how he could make An American in Paris. The melodramatic plot, metaphorically acted out in the "Red Shoes Ballet" then re-enacted for real by the main characters, presents Great Art as something worth dying for, and, in the person of Anton Walbrook's Lermontov, gives us a portrait of the artist as a man for whom anything and everything is worth sacrificing in its pursuit. Loosely based on Diaghilev, impresario of the Ballets Russes, Walbrook's magnetic central performance is of sufficient stature to conceal the rather trite predicament of his ballerina prot?®g?®e, and the film's contrived, over-the-top tragic ending. On the DVD: Sadly for a film in which music is such a central element, the advertised digital remastering doesn't seem to have extended to the mono soundtrack, which shows its age quite badly. The colour print, however, looks very vibrant. This special edition also includes a new 25-minute "making-of" feature with a few comments from crew members (or their relatives) and admirers of the film, including ballerina Darcey Bussell. "The Ballet of the Red Shoes" can be seen on its own in a separate featurette, and there are text biographies and a trailer.--Mark Walker
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