There is a major retrospective of the films of Powell & Pressburger currently underway in London at the BFI Southbank – the most extensive celebration of their work ever undertaken — selections of which will tour the country. As part of the celebrations, the BFI has published a short monograph by Pamela Hutchinson on THE RED SHOES — one of their greatest films — under its ‘BFI Film Classics’ imprint. I found it fun to read and very informative, with an impressive range of sources, intelligently organised. The book is beautifully written in a way that seems personal but is so impressively argued it becomes very difficult to argue against; and with a delightful mode of narrating: ‘but perhaps you disagree with my take.’ It’s both impressive and entertaining and it made me want to talk to Pam some more about the film and the book.
In the accompanying podcast, we discuss the following: Who are Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and what is their significance to a history of cinema in general, and British cinema in particular? What is the enduring appeal of THE RED SHOES. Why does the film feel so distinctly British but also so different from the British Cinema then being produced. What is the context for the film’s theme of ‘dying for art’. How did the filmmakers and cinematographer Jack Cardiff achieve a style of colour so different than that normally produced by Technicolour productions under the direction of Natalie Kalmus? What is a composed film? What is the relationship of a ‘composed film’ to the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk? What was the status of ballet then and how does the film deploy the form? Was the film an influence on MGM Freed Unit Productions such as AN AMERICAN IN PARIS? What did Anton Walbrook and Moira Shearer bring to the film and what happened to the after? And much more.
The podcast may be listened to here:
The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT
I have spoken to Pam previously on her other brilliant BFI classic on PANDORA’S BOX. Listeners might want to have a look at the Silent London website on all aspects of Silent Cinema that she directs and writes in. Pam will be talking on THE RED SHOES at the Midlands Arts Centre on the 16th of December to accompany a screening of the film. The MAC cinema has arguably the best projection system in the Midlands, a perfect place to see such a great and sumptuous film. Do I need to say that the book is a perfect stocking filler for Christmas?