Like many of the movies I’d passed over for some reason or another, as soon as I hear Stacie and Anthony chat about them on Gaylords of Darkness, I immediately changed my tune. The Red Shoes is a great example of this. Now I don’t recall if either of them actually liked the film, but I feel like they were quite passionate in their discussion, and that always piques my interest and spurs me to get in on the action of whatever they are talking about.
Loosely based on/inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of a young girl so enamored with her pretty red shoes that she wears them to church in spite of her elder’s warning that god doesn’t like that slutty vain shit, the girl is then visited by a series of beardy old farts and nosy angels who curse her feet and shoes to dance beyond her control, even after she dies. It’s pretty gruesome; at one point she even gets an executioner to chop her feet off, but her proto-Louboutins just keep dancing. In the end, she’s filled with remorse and prays; the angel reappears and “gives Karen (that’s really her name) the mercy she asked for: her heart becomes so filled with peace and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on to Heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.”
Well, thank god no one brought that whole episode up and embarrassed Karen in heaven.
The 2005 Korean film adaptation loosely based on The Red Shoes makes so much less sense than the already deranged source material that I don’t even know how to describe it. And as a matter of fact, one reviewer went so far as to condemn the film as “intolerably stupid.” But…I don’t know. I feel like there’s something there, even if it was so convoluted and disjointed as to be mostly incomprehensible gibberish. But is that just me not being able to keep up with the story? Or did they just do a really awful job telling this weird story?
Sun Jae, in a panic, because she thought she’d lost her daughter, Tae-soo, on the way to ballet practice, arrives home to find her awful husband in bed with his mistress (who is wearing Sun Jae’s shoes while they are boning! I can’t get over how rude that is!) She also realizes that Tae-soo had been home all along. Next thing we know Sun Jae has left her husband and she and Tae Soo are moving into a creepy, crappy apartment together. There are also several scenes taking place in another crappy building where Sun Jae is talking to and developing a relationship with an interior designer and I think this is meant to be someplace under reconstruction for her ophthalmologist clinic, but that is not at all explained very well, so I was getting very confused. I thought at first that penniless-after-leaving-her husband Sun Jae had somehow hired this guy for her own apartments, but how was she affording it and why did the space all of a sudden look so different? Also, how were we supposed to know she was an eye doctor? At one point she was in an eye clinic to get an injury looked at, and we see that she is friends with one of the technicians, but I in no way extrapolated from this that Sun Jae herself was a doctor.
Sun Jae finds a pair of (velvet?) pumps on the subway and brings them home. She soon finds that everyone in contact with the shoes becomes violently obsessed with them, and shotly thereafter meets a grisly end–which is concerning because Tae Soo seems to be wildly fixated on them. We find out by way of a dual storyline taking place in the past that the shoes are without a doubt just straight-up cursed, and also very pink and not at all red. We didn’t need ghosts to tell us that, though. It’s pretty obvious. Also, they are, and I realize this is very subjective, quite fug. Detectives become involved, people go to the hospital, it’s all very confusing, there’s a very long, scary chase scene that ends in an abadoned subway station sequence, and at the end of it, I am not sure what’s happening.
I need to preface that last statement with yes, some things become evident, I did catch some twisty twists. I know I have friends and readers who take things very literally and without fail there will be someone in the comments walking me through everything in this movie and I know you folks are very earnest and mean well. Like the person on social media who took me seriously when I posted this and felt it necessary to fill me in. At one point in time I would have gotten really irritated about this, like “can’t you read the room?” or I might think it’s a little mansplainy. But over the years it’s become clear to me that I just know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff and they just want to tell you about all of that stuff. That’s how some folks relate and socialize and connect with other people, and me getting annoyed about it is maybe a little bit shitty. But I guess the other side of this is…please don’t take everything I say seriously. And I know that’s how many folks’ brains operate, and I’m sorry if I am confusing to you in that regard!
ANYWAY I think the actors did the best with what they were given to work with here, and the cinematography was wonderfully gloomy and desperately creepy, and little Tae Soo was phenomenal as a terrified child. I don’t think this film was intolerably stupid, but I do think there were a lot of things that made absolutely no sense here and it made my brain hurt a little bit.
You can watch The Red Shoes for free on Vudu. It’s pretty terrible quality and I don’t think that helps make the story any less perplexing.
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