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.
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.