It is not news that young artists will sacrifice everything for the opportunity to practice and perfect their art.
This is why Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby continued to take meetings even after people knew awful they are.
There are plenty of fine movies about artists suffering for their art.
“The Red Shoes” is different. It proves to us that art IS worth sacrificing for. It’s an explosively original cinematic achievement.
When we meet Victoria Page, she’s a rich young woman with the dream of dancing for Boris Lermontov’s prestigious ballet company. When Lermontov meets Page, he asks her “why do you want to dance?” “Why do you want to breath?” she responds.
Page has the passion and the talent to back it up. Lermontov chooses her for the lead role in their production of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes.”
“The Red Shoes” is about a girl who buys a pair of magical shoes for a party. She dances and has the time of her life but finds that she can’t take off the shoes when the party is over. So she dances in horror and misery until she dies. It’s the theme of the ballet and the movie.
The first half of the film is a realistic demonstration of how a ballet production is put together. We see the backstage egos. We see the panic over sets that don’t function. We even see the daily call sheets printed in English, French, and Russian so every dancer in the diverse company knows what to do.
But all of this is just a lead-up to the incredible opening night scene.
For twenty show-stopping minutes, we see Victoria Page become a star.
At first, we see the ballet from the audience’s perspective. Then the magic starts and we begin to experience the show from Page’s point of view.
With imaginative, dream-like special effects, we see that Page has danced herself to nirvana. She’s one with Lermontov. She’s one with the maestro. She’s one with her muse.
Anyone who thinks old movies aren’t as technically impressive as current movies should watch “The Red Shoes.” The special effects are as seamless as any Marvel movie. And the Technicolor is more beautiful and striking than the realistic color of today.
To be fair, the rest of the film is only pretty good. But the ballet sequence is so extraordinary that it makes “The Red Shoes” a must-see.
Without a single line of dialogue, we understand that poor Victoria Page has become hopelessly addicted to the euphoria of the stage.
The rest of her life, she will be doomed to chase the high.
Is she a victim? That’s beside the point. For better or worse, she’s an artist.
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