The Red Shoes

In repertory at Film Forum through November 19.

At first glance, Moira Shearer isn’t much to look at. She has a flat, moon face and overplucked eyebrows and a sort of lemony countenance. But then she begins to dance, and she becomes a presence, beautiful and alluring. Dance transforms her into a glittering star.

Shearer’s captivating performance is part of what makes The Red Shoes so spellbinding—that and Anton Walbrook’s deliciously Mephistophelean impresario and the smart, biting screenplay and Jack Cardiff’s intoxicating Technicolor cinematography. More than anything else, though, the titular ballet at the film’s center is what makes it so special. Like Shearer, the ballet is transformed. Unshackled from the confines of a stage and the limitations of physics, it embraces the celluloid realm yet somehow never loses sight of the dancers’ graceful physicality—a paradox, perhaps, but a beautiful one.