Why 'The Red Shoes' Looks So Damn Good

Vibrant, lively: here's why 'The Red Shoes' packs a visual punch all these years later.

The Red Shoes cinematography
The Criterion Collection

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about the enduring aesthetic polish of ‘The Red Shoes.’

While there are flashier visual effects out there, we don’t always give enough attention to the greatest visual effect of all: color.

That’s right: color. And, as the modern preference for realism catapults blockbusters further and further out of the color wheel, the silver lining is that old technicolor films are growing more and more astonishing and magical with age.

And they don’t come more magical, or magically colorful, then 1948’s The Red Shoes.

A joint project of filmmaking duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Red Shoes is a fantastical portrait of the damaging effects of artistic obsession. The film follows Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), an aspiring ballerina torn between her love of dance and her desire to be loved. As emotional stress tears her apart, Vicky’s world begins to take on a more vibrant, dreamlike aspect.

As the video essay below puts it, The Red Shoes is a film about passion that exudes passion. Every fiber of the film aims directly for something more fantastical than convention, exploring more expressionistic realms and frequently disregarding the confines of the stage.

Ultimately, The Red Shoes ‘ use of color is heightened, not just for spectacle but for narrative effect. What The Red Shoes presents is an impression of reality, captured by Jack Cardiff and technicolor’s three-strip process, which was monstrously technical and expensive but highly effective in the right hands.

The result is a highly influential film that feels less like a historical document than a living painting. It is a cinematic dream. One that resides not in reality but next to it.

Watch “Why The Red Shoes Looked So Stunning“:

Who made this?

This video essay was put together by the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society, which is run by Andrew Saladino. You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube here.

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(Senior contributor)

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