Saturday, 21 December 2013

Red shoes and fleur bleue

Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes.  Love her make-up.

I noticed today that the classic 1948 Powell & Pressburger film The Red Shoes is being shown on BBC2 on Christmas morning. I have such a soft spot for The Red Shoes and I can't really work out why, but I've been trying to...  I guess there's just something particularly evocative about British 1940s films in general which awards them a special place in my heart, and even the most affected delivery of unrealistic dialogue and overstated emotional signposting are all part of their charm.

Perhaps they tap into something from childhood? I have an early memory of watching both The Red Shoes and Brief Encounter with my mum (who had named me after a leading English actress from that era) and probably just about anything with John Mills or James Mason in too, and perhaps I associate the whole feel of the slow pace of storytelling, dramatic lighting and orchestral soundtracks with the cosy naivete of my life back then. I suppose 1940s films were amongst the very first I would have seen in the late '60s and early '70s, movies that were only twenty to thirty years old at the time, and which may have been orginally watched by my parents at the cinema when they were in their teens. British pictures made during and just after wartime seemed to have an artistic defiance in them too, and I'm sure there are plenty of essays on the subject explaining the deeper reasons and motivations behind all that in the political context of the era, but I'll leave that to the academics. All I know is that there is something subtle and special about them which I love and whereas I cannot stomach mawkishness and melodrama in so many other areas of life, I have all the time in the world for it in a 1940s film.

Rather weirdly, I also have time for it in the form of a French Christmas song from 1946 which goes completely against the grain of everything I normally like, unless it's just that whole 1940s thing kicking in again. 'Fleur Bleue' they call this kind of thing in France, apparently, denoting its saccharine sentimentality. I heard this song for the first time the other day in my French class where we had the pleasure of translating its sweet lyrics* and were lulled, like small children, by Tino Rossi's mellifluous voice.  Seeing as it's that time of year and you are no doubt sick of all the usual ubiquitous festive songs, here it is.  I like the odd little film that goes with it too.


Tino Rossi sings Petit Papa Noel, 1946

For complete soppiness and a ridiculous retro indulgence, I may have to listen to this and then watch The Red Shoes on Wednesday morning. That's about as Christmassy and sentimental as it gets round here.

Tino Rossi.... very suave



*
It's a beautiful Christmas night
Snow spreads its white coat
And eyes lift toward the sky
On their knees, small children
Before closing their eyelids
Say one last prayer


Little Father Christmas
When you come down from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don't forget my little shoe


But before leaving
You must cover yourself well
Outside you'll be so cold
It's a little bit because of me


I can't wait for the break of day
To see if you have brought me
All the lovely toys that I see in dreams
And that I ordered from you


Little Father Christmas
When you come down from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don't forget my little shoe


The sandman has been
The children are going to sleep
And you can start,
With your sack over your back,
To the sound of the church bells,
Your distribution of surprises

If you have to stop
On all the roofs in the world
And do all that before tomorrow morning -
Get yourself down the chimneys fast

And when you're on your beautiful cloud
Come to our house first
I haven't always been very well behaved
But I ask for your forgiveness


Little Father Christmas
When you come down from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don't forget my little shoe

Little Father Christmas

10 comments:

  1. I might watch The Red Shoes, don't think I have actually seen it!

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    1. Enjoy the sumptuous technicolour glory of it all if you do!

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  2. Have a spiffing Xmas and a biffing New Year, I am spending the festivities with Flycasual and Shellhunter see you next year, keep up the great little stories..

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    1. Thank you, Old Pa! And the same to you and all the Tune Doctor team, I'll look forward to checking out new sounds in the new year x

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  3. Merrrrrry Chrissstmassssssssss C!

    I haven't heard Slade once this year, not once... have I gone deaf possibly?

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    1. And to you Yve! x
      I'd get your ears checked if i were you ;-) I have heard Slade - and all the usual suspects - this year several times! (I find it hard to imagine there ever being a Christmas when they won't be played in a shop or on the radio somewhere....yet the Slade and Wizzard singles are already 40 years old, how scary is that?!)

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  4. I too have a soft spot for a certain style of old film that turned up time & again on the TV of my childhood. I think you're right, in the 1960s & 70s there were no 'new' films on TV. Now they seem to be at the cinema one day, on DVD the next and on TV soon after that. Having said all that, I can't bring The Red Shoes to mind. I'm sure I've seen it, but I'll be sure to catch up with it on the iPlayer at some point over the festivities.
    A Happy Christmas to you & Mr SDS!

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    1. Yes, so true about films now...! I guess its testament to their appeal that the ancient ones are still screened regularly in spite of all the latest ones being out there...there's something strangely comforting about them, perhaps its their comparitive quietness and gentility.
      Thanks for Christmas wishes - and a very happy one to you and Mrs Swede too! x

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  5. I also spent many a happy Saturday afternoon immersed in the wonder of classic B+W films. I'm always disappointed when I try and introduce my daughters to them and they are not bowled over. Even the glorious technicolor of " The Red Shoes" failed to move them. However I have searched for an unknown Christmas movie to indoctrinate them with this year and have come up with " The Bishop's Wife' with Cary Grant , David Niven and Loretta Young. Unknown to me too so we shall see but a good candidate for curling on the couch with a rug and a sickly liqueur!

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    1. Ah yes, it was that Saturday afternoon thing, wasn't it? Maybe there was less to distract us then so we just appreciated what was on offer more? Hope you and your daughters enjoy 'The Bishop's Wife' - I've never heard of it either but now I'm curious. And enjoy your liqueur too!

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