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winter

Friday Film Review: Tri orísky pro Popelka/Three Wishes for Cinderella

Friday Film Review: Tri orísky pro Popelka/Three Wishes for Cinderella

Tri orísky pro Popelka (Three Wishes for Cinderella, aka Three Nuts for Cinderella, aka Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel) (1973)
Genre: Fairy Tale
Grade: B

Estara’s comment about this Czech/East German TV production got me interested in seeing it. But wishing to see it and actually getting my hands on a Region 1 NTSC copy proved to be a challenge. I know I tried to order it from at least 4 different sources in the US before finally succeeding. And then as luck would have it, I discovered it on youtube in both the narrated, dubbed and subtitled forms.

Popelka (Libuse Safránková) is the much put upon stepdaughter/sister of Mother (Carola Braunbocková) and Dora (Dana Hlavácová). Her only joy comes in the rare moments when she gets to escape to the surrounding forest, riding her white stallion which her father gave her three years ago before his death. But those times are few as Mother can always make up impossible tasks when there is no other work to be done. Luckily helpful pigeons are always ready to lend a beak for those seed sorting nightmare jobs

Meanwhile the King (Rolf Hoppe) and Queen (Karin Lesch) are trying to get some actual knowledge drilled into the head of their son the Prince (Pavel Trávnícek) who also likes to take to the woods with his two buddies to go hunting and riding. It’s there that Popelka runs into them several times and not only out thinks them but also out rides and out shoots them too.

But his parents insist on hosting a ball to find him a wife and when a servant is sent to town to buy material for Mother and Dora’s new dresses, he also brings back something for Popelka – three magic nuts. From one of them she gains a beautiful new ball gown and dazzles the young Prince before setting him a riddle. He must find her then tell her who she is before she’ll agree to marry him. But Mother is determined to get the Prince to marry Dora instead. Is he resourceful enough to dodge Dora then find his lady love and win her hand?

This is a darling little production. And with its winter setting, it’s perfect to watch this time of year. I must disagree with a lot of comments at IMDB about how inferior the Disney versions of Cinderella are compared to it though. They are just different and both equally good in their own right.

Here Popelka is a feisty young woman who can best just about any man in the kingdom. She rides like the wind, can shoot a crossbow with deadly aim as well as being cute as a bug’s ear and dancing like a cloud. She also seems a touch smarter than her Prince which will hopefully be passed on to their children. Meanwhile, the Prince starts out a bit of a handsome wastrel but I’ve no doubt that Popelku will snap him into shape before too long. One note though, PETA wouldn’t be too happy about the hunting scenes in the movie.

The music is charming but viewers better like the dreamy main theme as it’s repeated often and I found it running through my head for hours after watching the film. The winter scenery is gorgeous and I love the tiled fireplace at the authentic looking farmstead where Popelka and her family live. I’m not quite sure what to make of the costumes – are they realistic for some era or just a basic faux medieval? Watch for Mother’s enormous bat headdress to see what I mean. It also seems like the audio and video aren’t quite in sync on my DVD though it’s not so far off as to be annoying.

There is a lot of humor in this edition especially when Popelka runs circles around the Prince and his cohorts. The poor Prince also has to dance with some bruisers at the ball. Some of these women could be bar bouncers. But he also quickly knows his true love when he dances with her and is determined to track her down through the dead of night and the deepest snow.

So how can it be viewed? There are PAL as well as (harder to locate) NTSC DVDs to be found. But probably the easiest way to see it is from youtube. Good ol’ youtube! Three people have uploaded the film in its entirety: one has English narration (I think from an old BBC showing) while another has English subtitles and the third is dubbed in German. The NTSC DVD I have is basic bare bones with only the English subtitled film. Check it out and see why it’s so beloved in Europe for almost 40 years.

~Jayne

Dear Author

REVIEW: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Dear Ms. Stiefvater,

This is the first novel of yours that I’ve completed. I attempted to read your debut, Lament, but I’m afraid my general disinterest in faeries got the better of me. Shiver, on the other hand, is about werewolves, which remain my favorite of the supernatural bestiary. Add to that the fact that I first heard about this book pitched as The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Blood and Chocolate, and my interest was definitely piqued. That said, while Blood and Chocolate is one of my favorite novels ever (please don’t talk to me about the movie; it doesn’t exist in my head), I have to add the caveat that I’m one of the five people in the entire world who didn’t care for The Time Traveler’s Wife. So I was curious to see on which end of the spectrum Shiver would fall.

When she was a child, Grace was attacked by wolves. She’d been playing in the backyard, when wolves pulled her off the swing and mauled her. But mysteriously, one of the wolves — a grey with striking yellow eyes — stopped the rest of his pack and saved her life. Since that day, Grace has held an obsessed fascination with the wolves that roam the forests behind her family’s Minnesota home. In particular, she watches for the yellow-eyed wolf that saved her life — an interest that is further spurred on by the fact that the wolf watches her back.

Then one day, a boy from Grace’s high school is attacked and killed by wolves. It incites a panic among the town’s populace, who’ve never liked the fact that a wolf pack prowls their forests. It gets so bad that eventually a group of hunters is formed and they go kill the pack. After all, Grace’s dead classmate came from a rich and powerful family and what they want, they will no doubt get. But Grace doesn’t want the wolves — and her yellow-eyed wolf, in particular — to be killed. It’s true that she was attacked as a child, but she was also saved by one as a child.

She manages to put a halt to the hunting party, but not before they’ve already taken some down. Worried for her wolf, Grace goes home. It’s there, on the deck, that she finds a naked boy, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck, with yellow eyes. His name is Sam.

Shiver is told in alternating first-person narratives between Grace, the girl who survived a wolf attack, and Sam, the werewolf who saved her. I really enjoyed the prose of this novel; it was lovely. I also liked how each chapter had a note regarding the temperature, which was very important considering the werewolves’ biology.

Speaking of the werewolves’ biology, I did like this new take on the werewolf mythos. The idea of werewolves having to shift based on temperature was an interesting one, even though some of the specific details and ramifications didn’t work for me from a scientific point of view. Still, I liked the concept of werewolves being able to walk as humans during the warmer seasons but then having to change to wolf form during the colder ones. It reminded me of the various survival strategies animals has evolved over time — hibernation or fur coats changing to white, for example.

But as I said, some of the details didn’t quite make sense to me. If the shift was so dependent on temperature differences, I couldn’t understand why moving to Texas, Florida or an equatorial country wouldn’t work in preventing the change (just stay away from air conditioners) or conversely, how a heater could really be that effective in combating winter’s frigid temperatures. As for the purported cure for lycanthropy, the less said about that, the better. I would recommend readers who pick up this book not to think too hard about the logistics of the cure; it’ll go down much easier than it did for someone like me, who’s no longer able to turn off that part of her brain anymore.

As for the romance between Grace and Sam, it was very sweet. That’s really the best adjective I can think of for it. Other than the problem of Sam one day not being able to shift back to human form, a fate shared by all werewolves, their relationship doesn’t really experience any true interpersonal conflict, which some readers may find boring or uninteresting. I think there is some merit to comparing Shiver to Twilight in many respects, but even the Bella and Edward relationship had more conflict than this. In that sense, Shiver was more like The Time Traveler’s Wife — Grace and Sam are very much in love, but their biggest obstacle is keeping Sam in human form during the dead of winter.

I do wish we’d gotten more of a glimpse into the friendships between Grace, Rachel, and Olivia. This is one of my biggest complaints about stories of this type: why don’t the heroines have more female friends? In Shiver, at least they’re present but I think it could have used more at some points to emphasize what happens at the end. On the other hand, I really enjoyed Isabel, the younger sister of Grace’s classmate who was attacked by the wolf pack, and her role in the novel. She starts off as the stereotypical beautiful, rich mean girl classmate who enjoys tormenting her peers but then it soon becomes apparent she has more depth than that.

Grace’s parents follow the usual fictional trope of being virtually nonexistent and not present in Grace’s life. Oh, they’re alive and live with Grace but they’re simply busy with their own lives and figure everything’s all right with their only child and daughter. This didn’t particularly bother me, but I can see how a reader would get annoyed by it. Even I started having a hard time believing her parents didn’t notice the fact that an extra person was living in their house for weeks. They certainly weren’t living in a mansion.

So in the end, I think this book was more along the lines of The Time Traveler’s Wife in terms of tone and style. It simply lacked the visceral undercurrent that ran throughout Blood and Chocolate. I do think this novel has a lot to offer potential readers but I also think people who tend to focus on the specific details might find themselves a bit dissatisfied. B-

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased at Amazon . Weirdly I can only find this in the Kindle format.