Friday, October 18, 2013
Favorite and Recommended Fairy Tale Films?
I haven't finished my Beauty and the Beast entry for today, so I'm going to save it for Monday, maybe Sunday. Instead, let's start a weekend conversation. I recently received an email with a question I thought I should open up to the community at large:
"If you could tell me, in your opinion, the best non-Disney fairy tale adaptations people should watch?"
My list is long, and I really don't want to list them all since I want to encourage everyone else to share. But I'll get the ball rolling.
Ever After - A Cinderella Story is first on my list, not necessarily because it is my top favorite, but because about 70% of the reader recommendations will be for this one. So if you agree, yes, say so, but try to add a second and third choice, too, not just this as a top pick. Let's make it interesting.
My sentimental favorite is The Slipper and the Rose: The Story Of Cinderella [Blu-ray], which is being re-released to Blu-Ray in November. Hoorah! This is the film I grew up with. It's the one that made me never give up on Cinderella. Be warned it's a musical and Richard Chamberlain "sings." The happy ever after is worked for a little harder in this one. And I LIKE the music by the Sherman Brothers (who also wrote Mary Poppins). No apologies from me, but I admit it's not for everyone. But this is perfect for many Disney fans. And Annette Crosbie is the Fairy Godmother I want.
I also offer up Donkey Skin as a very important fairy tale film. Not to everyone's taste but very beloved by those who do. It's French. It's Donkeyskin. It's a classic. It's an iconic film in France, actually. I see it referenced every time I am in that country. And I'm not looking for it either, despite being, well, SurLaLune.
Beauty and The Beast (The Criterion Collection) is the most important film to watch in the fairy tale canon. Outside of Disney, it is the most discussed and analyzed by scholars. Pretty much every paper or article about fairy tales and film will cover this one. If it doesn't, it better have an excellent reason or it won't be taken very seriously by those in the know. Again, it's French. Expect subtitles or dubbing.
Ditto for The Company of Wolves. The other most analyzed film outside Disney fairy tales. Thanks to it being strange and an adaptation of Angela Carter. Not for the faint of heart. And not in French, but sometimes you'll wonder if you are watching a foreign film. This isn't for converting friends unless they are goth or their tastes veer far away from popular culture. Think more horror art house style. Personally, I'll admit not an entertaining favorite, but it's an important film.
Three Wishes for Cinderella (Tri Orisky Pro Popelku) [DVD] is another fan favorite and was the most asked about film for the first five or so years that SurLaLune existed. I wasn't aware of it when I started SurLaLune. Now I know. Not your Perrault Cinderella, more like all the other versions that aren't known in pop culture.
Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collection is a cult classic for a reason. While I personally find the Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Complete Collection a little too campy and slightly tedious, there are few flaws to be found in this series of tales from Jim Henson and several other heavy hitters from the 80s, including narrator John Hurt (most recently known here in the US for the voice of the dragon in the BBC Merlin series.) I love these but some may disturb younger children, so know your audience. Highly recommended all the same.
On the more educational side, I also like Storybook International Collection 10 Disc Set. It is a series by different filmmakers, usually made in the country of origin for the tale. The quality is inconsistent, but we've enjoyed several of these and I still haven't watched them all, more from time than interest limits. There are a lot in here. Expect slower pacing than the average child is used to these days.
Finally, I enjoy the Brothers Grimm series by Tom Davenport. Again, not always consistent and these have older production values (as do most of the films on this list), but these linger in your brain. Of course, I am slightly biased since I'm from below the Mason Dixon line and Southern in all the best ways, but these are great renditions of tales, somewhat unexpected. My husband remembers watching them when he was in grade school, but I was never that fortunate. Our sentimental favorite is From the Brothers Grimm: Soldier Jack: The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack. John just referenced it a few weeks ago in casual conversation even though is has been years since we watched it. From the Brothers Grimm: Willa: An American Snow White is one of the best and unexpected ones, also the last one produced, I believe. These are also inconsistent in appropriateness for younger age levels.
Come to think of it, both the Brothers Grimm and Storyteller series offered darker renditions of tales 20+ years ago. This is not a new trend in the film industry just happening now.
Oh, I almost forgot!
Just kidding! Ella Enchanted [Blu-ray] is my absolute LEAST favorite fairy tale film. I ADORE the book and hate the film which removed anything lovely from the text. There are worst movies out there but none with as big of stars and budget as this clunker. Perhaps if I had been three years old when it was released, I may have liked it briefly. But this was painful. Very painful. And I had a 3-year-old niece who did enjoy it when it was released so I sat through it several times. Never improved with multiple exposures. The loathing only increased. And, yes, it may be okay if you've never read the book, but the book would have made an excellent movie just as it was. Yes, that is a common refrain with readers but this movie, yuck. Prime example of horrid Hollywood rewriting.
I'm sure I've forgotten 20 or so titles, but this is a start. Now what do you readers recommend?