A poet dreams of three women—a mechanical performing doll, a bejeweled siren, and the consumptive daughter of a famous composer—all of whom break his heart in different ways. Powell and Pressburger create a phantasmagoric marriage of cinema and opera in this one-of-a-kind classic.
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Overstuffed and overlong -- the vivid excitement of the 20 minute Red Shoes Ballet is here dulled into archness, the charm wears off in a hurry. Helpmann, Massine and others manage some fine moments, but poor Robert Rounseville sings like an angel and acts like Keanu. It's all been done better elsewhere -- check out Bergman's film of THE MAGIC FLUTE, which doesn't sink under the weight of all that gimmickry.
I guess I have to say I'm not one to judge this film, as opera is an art form I have yet to understand or appreciate - and this film is not much more than a filmed opera. As bizarre and phantasmagoric as the imagery is, it really isn't enough to sit through two and a half hours for. If you can appreciate opera, it might be for you, but it doesn't really work as a film, even for fans of director Michael Powell.
Powell's and Pressburger's attempt to recreate the fantastical worlds of "Les contes d'Hoffmann" with the help of film effects is a clever move. A real achievement of the film is the projection of the narration into unrealistic and colourful spaces that underline the artificiality of the whole settings. Although some things appear a little oldfashioned today, the Olympia episode is a real highlight of filmed opera.
A beautiful, but over-embrodied, patchwork which does not make a convincing whole. It appears the intoxicating success of The Red Shoes has gone to the filmmakers' heads with too many delights stitched in this strangest of entertainments.
It might be a slight dig at the self-seriousness of poets and their muses, or at least I hope with an ending more comic than tragic. Or it could just be a vivid conception of fantasy, a resplendent display of colour and design, tangible proof of cinema's aura. Happy to foot the bridge between opera and I, and I have a lot of narrative problems I will dismiss for a work of such imagination.
My first really expressive of opera as an adult and coming into this film looking for the powell and pressburger traits certainly helped. The visuals are a feast for the senses. There was some narrative confusion induced by the episodic nature of the tale (s) it seemed almost as if the separate stories where squeezed rather loosely under one arc. Also, Must all dialogue be sung? I am still open but not won over.
Visually sumptous and full of inventive technically astounding tricks, but boy, I didn't care for anything that came out of the characters mouths. The bizarro nature of the stories and the schizo tone got me through what were otherwise interminable numbers.
Prix Spécial du Jury à Cannes, Prix de la Commission Supérieure Technique et Ours d'Argent à Berlin (1951), cette oeuvre fastueuse reste un monument incontournable dans l'histoire du cinéma, un véritable chef-d'oeuvre d'intelligence et de beauté, d'une finesse et d'une sensualité extrêmes, un vrai raffinement de l'esprit qui délivre, éblouissant et inoubliable, un enchantement permanent et durable. www.cinefiches.com