Review: Stunning 'Red Shoes' Everything That Makes the Art of Cinema Grand

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 18, 2022

Review: Stunning 'Red Shoes' Everything That Makes the Art of Cinema Grand

I first heard of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes" through filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The man unrightfully deemed by toxic fans as an anti-Marvel gatekeeper is anything but, as in the same sentence he was recommending this lavish masterpiece and encouraging anyone listening to watch it. Because "The Red Shoes," my oh my, is cinema. It is everything that makes the art form grand. Its image, sound, performances, and ideas all blend together seamlessly to create a motion picture for the ages, and one that has indubitably stood the test of time.

As such, the 1948 film has been a mainstay of The Criterion Collection, first arriving on laserdisc in 1994, on DVD in 1999, and on Blu-ray in 2010. In 2021, however, Criterion announced that they were venturing into the 4K Ultra HD market and that "The Red Shoes" would be among their first six titles included in this format. The result, quite simply, is stunning. But it's been a long road. In the early 2000s fundraising spearheaded by Scorsese and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker (who is also Powell's widow), launched a restoration that would bring this decades-old masterpiece to new life. The newly restored version made its premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and was released on Criterion Blu-ray just a year later.

You'll often find the work brought up in film conversations, as this noted entry in cinematic history is widely recognized as one of the medium's finest contributions. Hypnotic images, striking colors, gorgeous soundtracking, and so much more define this opus, which never lets its foot off the gas pedal and always delivers in every frame. How many frames? Per the restoration specs, there were 192,960 frames in the print and 578,880 in the tripartite negative. It goes without saying how much care went into this restoration for nearly two decades now.

And the result is there in all its glory in Criterion's 4K Ultra HD release. It's worth picking up even if you already own the Blu-ray. If you love the film, this is the best way to see it.

There are many bonus features on this Criterion Collection release of "The Red Shoes," which include:

  • Restoration demonstration featuring filmmaker Martin Scorsese

  • Audio commentary from 1994 by film historian Ian Christie, featuring interviews with actors Marius Goring and Moira Shearer, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, composer Brian Easdale, and Scorsese

  • "A Profile of 'The Red Shoes,'" a 2000 documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with members of the production team

  • Interview with director Michael Powell's widow, editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, from the 2009 Cannes Film Festival

  • Audio recordings of actor Jeremy Irons reading excerpts from Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger's novelization of The Red Shoes and the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Red Shoes"

  • Publicity stills and behind-the-scenes photos

  • Gallery of memorabilia from Scorsese's collection

  • "The 'Red Shoes' Sketches," a 1948 animated film of Hein Heckroth's painted storyboards, with the "Red Shoes" ballet as an alternate angle

  • Trailer

  • An essay by critic David Ehrenstein and a description of the restoration by UCLA film archivist Robert Gitt

    "The Red Shoes" is now available on Criterion Collection 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray Combo Pack for the suggested retail price of $39.96