Question: If something you love is adapted into a new medium, do you a: run a mile and pretend it doesn’t exist, or b: go and see it out of morbid curiosity? With this in mind I went to see Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes and quickly learnt that I had nothing to worry about. Depending on who you ask Matthew Bourne is either the enfant terrible of ballet, or the genius bringing dance into 21st century.
From talking to other audience members, and overhearing people in the bar at the interval, it was clear that there were a lot of people there who haven’t seen the film, therefore, there may be some people reading this who also haven’t. In short, made by The Archers, aka director / producer due Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1948. The story of Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) an ambitious young dancer torn between her career represented by the controlling company impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) and the man she loves Julian Craster (Marius Goring).
Ashley Shaw takes on the part of Vicky and is sensational (Ashley Shaw danced the lead on Wednesday but shares the role with Cordelia Braitwaite and Katrina Lyndon depending on when you go) as are the rest of the cast. Knowing the film so well it is difficult to say how well the story is expressed, and how much of it is my prior knowledge. One thing that is clear, the love triangle between Page, Lermontov and Craster is clearly expressed and is the heart of the story. I am not sure if an audience needs to understand any more than this to enjoy the production. There are changes to the plot but the centre of the story, ballet of The Red Shoes remains: Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story: a young woman is given a pair of red shoes by a demonic Shoemaker. She puts them on and begins to dance and can’t stop. Ultimately she dies from exhaustion and the shoes are retrieved by the Shoemaker ready for his next victim.
Like with the film, the ballet of The Red Shoes is spectacular. Without the benefit of movie special effects (yes they did exist before CGI) the ballet relies of stunning production design. The sets are nothing short of genius. A proscenium arch located on the stage turns at key points of the show changing the audiences prospective. Combined with a few simple props and some projected images it proves that a little truly can go a long way. There a few moments from the film that can’t be reproduced without dialogue, most notably an exchange between Page and Lermontov exploring their motivation.
Forgoing Brian Easdale score from the film in favour of the music of legendry film composer Bernard Herrmann. An interesting choice. If you listen to Herman’s music from North by Northwest and Psycho you will hear elements similar to those of a ballet score with characters having their own motifs entwine as the characters interact. But you won’t hear any of this in The Red Shoes, none of his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock are used. The notable scores used here include re-orchestrated versions of Citizen Kane, Fahrenheit 451, and Hangover Square. The music is fantastic and works perfectly, at no time did I think I was listening to a modern score or one cobbled together, it sounded like a Herman movie score, a classical score with an edge. The one thing I did miss, a live orchestra. As fantastic as score is, a live orchestra would have elevated it to a different level.
Cinema is my first love and I have loved The Red Shoes since I first saw it as a student more than twenty years ago, but Matthew Bourne’s adaptation is a worthy one.
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While researching an article on film certification I came across the BBFC podcast. In one of their episodes they mentioned the highest number of complaints they have received in recent years was for Black Swan (2011). The most interesting thing was how few complains and what they were for; The number was around 40 and the reason, parents complaining that their daughters who were expecting a nice film about ballet. It was clearly a case of expectations. The trailer makes the film look like the giallo inspired psychological horror/thriller that it is. As someone who grew up watching films on video with a certificate beyond my age I may not have the best judgment on the subject, however I do think the 15 is about right.
A look at the BBFC website gives a interesting insight into how they came to the decision “Black Swan presented the BBFC with a whole range of classification issues when it was submitted for an advice viewing in 2010”. It appears the reasons the film received the 15 certificate and was considered for an 18 include: Sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images as described in the BBFCinsight (BBFCinsight is aimed particularly at parents. It offers a summary of how and why a film was rated at any given category). The film’s director Darren Aronofsky previous made Requiem For a Dream (2001) that received an 18 certificate for “strong drug use, language, violence, sex and medical gore”. Everything in the film stems from the drug use, and if there ever was an anti-drug film this is it.
As mentioned, it’s all a matter of perspective. Black Swan is a psychological thriller about the breakdown of an emotionally fragile young woman. On the other hand the seminal Ballet movie Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948) is actually a darker movie. When you strip away the stunning photography and fantastic score you are left with a story of a woman who is forced to make an impossible choice between love and the job she loves. It’s a fairytale with all the sweetness and happiness removed. A movie that is as devastating as it is beautiful. Without the sex, language, drug use, self harm and bloody images the film has a U rating meaning anyone of any age can watch it without any warning that they are going to have their heart and hope ripped from them.
I’m unsure what conclusions we can draw from this other than to say films aren’t always what you expect and the written guidelines such as BBFCinsight are probably more relevant the simple number or letter of the certificate.
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Posted in My Movie Year, tagged Bicycle Thieves, Citizen Kane, Fort Apache, Gilda, High Sierra, It’s A Wonderful Life, Key Largo, Notorious, Sullivan’s Travels, Suspicion, The Big Sleep, The Killers, The Maltese Falcon, The Red Shoes, The Treasure o f the Sierra Madre on April 8, 2012|
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We are just a week away from My Movie Year
As previously mentioned we are publishing on Sunday 15th April. I will post a homepage with a list of all participants at 12:00 (mid day) BST. If you can post at around this time it will be perfect. Don’t worry if you can’t anytime that day is fine.
Please post this link: http://wp.me/prVbF-2rb (it won’t work until the day) to the homepage in your post. And use the banner from the top of this post.
Please email me at email@example.com by Thursday 12th if possible with the following information:
- The name you wish to be know by on the homepage
- The name of your blog
- A link to your post ( if you are not able to produce a link to the post, include a link to your blog homepage)
Don’t forget if you know anyone who is interested in taking part, its not to late. Email me if you have any questions.
As a precursor to the main event here are a few years that were in contention but didn’t make it. Check in every day this week to see some other years that didn’t make the final cut.
1941: Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion, High Sierra, Sullivan’s Travels
1946: It’s A Wonderful Life, The Big Sleep, Notorious, Gilda, The Killers
1948: Key Largo, Bicycle Thieves, The Treasure o f the Sierra Madre, The Red Shoes, Fort Apache
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