Ballet’s Mean Streets
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: November 7, 2009
It's been a long time since we had a really good Movies With Maureen® night at the cinema. But today, Ms Dowd has made up for lost time.
Some movies you have to watch whenever they’re on.But that is the first of many movie allusions yet to come. She warms up with veiled references to Wuthering Heights and Moby Dick, fitting in truly terrible pun in the process.
One of those, for me, is “The Red Shoes.” Like its doomed heroine, I’m pulled inexorably along by the bewitched crimson ballet slippers into a lush, swirling landscape that turns into an inescapable, bloody hell.
There are many great works of art about obsession, from Heathcliff’s wailing to Ahab’s whaling, but this is surely the most gorgeously haunting.She invokes Martin Scorsese, the source of her titular reference, to bolster her high opinion of The Red Shoes.
Now Martin Scorsese calls “The Red Shoes” “one of the true miracles of film history.” He long ago began an obsessive campaign to restore Powell’s reputation.Maureen then moves onto a colorfully named flick featuring a fellow ginger.
In “Black Narcissus,” their 1947 movie about a lustful nun in the Himalayas, played by Deborah Kerr — they seemed drawn to redheads for Technicolor — the sister faints from sexual desire and the screen goes orange.And since she got an interview with Scorsese for this column, she carries the color motif into his movies.
It is interesting that Powell twice counseled Scorsese against the color red. He didn’t like the red boxing gloves in the early rushes of “Raging Bull” and urged Scorsese to switch to a black-and-white film. (He did.) Powell told him “Mean Streets” had too much red lighting and he should take some out. (He didn’t).So if your Netflix queue needs refreshing, you could do worse than to take a few tips from the cinephile of the Op/Ed page. Just make sure the hue on your television can capture all that red.