Americans have A Christmas Story to enjoy every Holiday season- a bland and milquetoast Hallmark-quality movie if there ever was one- but for Europeans (at least Eastern Europeans) that tradition falls squarely on the shoulders of Tři oříšky pro Popelku, a 1973 Czech classic that’s mostly not about Christmas, actually- but Cinderella.
But this is no Disneyfied fairy tale; it’s hardcore European folkiness, with a pretty badass Cinderella who doesn’t take shit from anyone and has little interest in prancing Princes and the like. It also happens to be gorgeously crafted, a testament to director Václav Vorlícek, one of the Czech Republic’s unsung artistic heroes. From the first scene to the last, Vorlícek fashions out a perfectly shot, perfectly edited, perfectly everything all-ages comedy that’s just as enjoyable for adults as children. It’s truly a classic in every sense of that overused word, one that warrants repeated viewings in July just as much as December.
The English translation says it all: this Cinderella gets three wishes (from three magic chestnuts,) but she doesn’t waste them on getting herself some dopey rich prince. In fact, when the prince comes looking for her, she puts him through a series of tests, playing much more than merely “hard-to-get”, and one-ups him (and his friends) with her sharpshooting skills in the woods. People pay a lot of lip service to “strong female role models” today, and yet most of those films feature wooden, uninteresting female leads who are little more than bland cardboard cutouts despite their “spunky and strong” demeanor.
Not so with Tři oříšky pro Popelku, a true badass- yet still charming, romantic and sweet- fairy tale classic worth watching… no matter what the time of year.
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