While Powell and Pressburger's classic adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes
is a luscious film, this new Criterion treatment of the restored version gives us all a special reason to rewatch this dance nightmare yet again. With Martin Scorsese's explanation, on disc 1, of the huge task accomplished in its restoration, one not only marvels at how such a fine feature was allowed to accrue mold and scratches, but also at how lucky we are to have a clean Technicolor-like copy available to future viewers. Perhaps some of us are normally underwhelmed by studying cinematic restoration, but in this case the compare and contrast between old and new is astonishing.
Criterion's addition of an entire second disc of extras relating to The Red Shoes' conception, execution, and restoration gives the viewer a holistic glimpse into what is arguably the finest ballet film ever made. This second extras disc, including lengthy interviews with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell (Powell's widow and the film's editor) and audio commentary by Ian Christie, stars Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, giving one the typical multifaceted view of conditions that made the film possible. A half-hour long documentary, also called "The Red Shoes" (2000), fleshes out further the history of adapting a short story into cinema that feels like theater. But the most unique gems here are the creation and restoration tales surrounding the movie's finest scene: the dance sequence in which Vicky is swept away by her charmed red slippers. "The Red Shoes Sketches," an animated film made from Hein Heckroth's painted storyboards, is a fascinating look at this ballet sequence, as it shows how closely the set design emulates the cartoonish, fantastical original conceits. Jeremy Irons's reading of the fairy tale over the film is also mesmerizing. The only corny inclusion in the extras is a slide show of Scorsese's collection of Red Shoes memorabilia. In all, Criterion's treatment of this film about passion turned obsession does well to mimic The Red Shoes thematically by studying the movie with an equally passionate stance. --Trinie Dalton
Remarkable for its seamless combination of dance and storytelling, "The Red Shoes" is a fairy tale with a moral, an exquisite revelation of ballet both as inspiration and destruction. Spectacularly choreographed by Robert Helpmann, starring Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook. 1948; 2 hours 13 min.