Archive for July, 2009

The Red Shoes

July 2, 2009

“The Red Shoes represents Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s commitment ot a total cinema at its most impassioned and fully achieved.”—Movie Classics

“They are all dead now. Not just Powell and Pressburger, and J. Arthur Rank, but Walbrook, Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, Leonide Massine, Ludmilla Tcherina and Robert Helpmann. Hein Heckroth, who did the production design; Brian Easdale, who wrote the music; Sir Thomas Beecham, who conducted it. One person is left (March 2008): Jack Cardiff, who did the color photography.”—David Thomson, “Have You Seen…?”

Jack Cardiff died on April 22, 2009, shortly before the rapturous reception of a restored version of The Red Shoes at the Cannes Film Festival.

The one-two punch of Cardiff’s death and the re-release of a restored The Red Shoes, combined with my two daughters’ (ages 6 and 4) interest in ballet, led me to revisit the film. It was providential.

Criterion's "The Red Shoes" Jacket

Criterion's "The Red Shoes" Jacket

 As if Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s masterful story of the struggle between competing loves weren’t already near and dear enough to my heart, it now has the added distinction of being the laserdisc title that overcame my hesitancies and started me on this blogging project.

So much has been written about the film, but it’s the color that comes to mind first, always, when I think of The Red Shoes. There’s the word “red” in the title. There’s red all over the laserdisc jacket. But more than either of those, there’s the indelible cinematography of Cardiff, whose images across Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus and A Matter of Life and Death are integral in those films’ status as masterpieces.

Foldout Jacket Essay

Foldout Jacket Essay

The laserdisc supplements include an audio track by Martin Scorcese, one of Powell’s biggest admirers and the man responsible for the re-release of The Red Shoes, as well as a key player in the earlier Criterion laserdisc releases of the Powell/Pressburger titles. I listened to the track years ago, and hoped to again before blogging. But tonight, my wife looked at me and said, “If you don’t start writing now, it’ll be September and you’ll wonder where the summer went.”

 She’s right, of course. She added that a blogger simply needs to blog—not study, ruminate, meditate and try to come up with a substantial post. “Just write,” she commanded.

Tri-Fold Jacket Image

Tri-Fold Jacket Image

So here it is. There’s so much more to say about The Red Shoes, but nothing more I can add at the moment. This will have to suffice. In the war between my wife and the little man who whispers in my ear, “Don’t rush it. Make it worth reading. It’s for you first, and others second,” my wife has won out, for now.

I’ve been reading some Sarris and Kael, and I’ll be posting about that reading as it goes (see my first post). But already the weeks have gotten away from me. The key thing is to post. Here’s to more frequent updates.