The Second Annual Serene Wombles

Two years! Woo-woo! Thanks for keeping with me. It’s been another hell of a year, and although Life Events have meant that I wasn’t able to review quite as much as I would have liked, you’ve stuck with me, and that’s awesome. In fact, with 28,000 hits this year, three times as many people have shown at least a vague interest in this little blog as last year. So: thanks! 😀

Those of you who were here last October 3rd will remember that to mark the aniversary of this esteemed blog I decided to hand out some meaningless awards: The Serene Wombles!

What exactly are the Serene Wombles? Well, to quote myself last year:

Eligibility for a Serene Womble i[s] conferred by being the subject of a review [on In Search of the Happiness Max] in the past year. There may have been better or more worthy things that came out this year, but if I didn’t find them relevant to my interests, or if I simply didn’t have the time to review them, they won’t be eligible for a Serene Womble. I make no pretense that these awards are significant or important in any way, but I enjoy having the opportunity to praise and draw attention to things I have loved.

The Serene Wombles are divided into two categories, those that apply to recent releases, and special Time Travelling Wombles for the most awesome things in my Reviewing Through the Time Machine posts. The division between the former and the latter may at times seem arbitrary – why should a film that came out in 2009 count as a recent release, whilst a TV Show that ended in 2009 requires a time machine? It’ll always be a judgement call, and the judgement will [usually] have been made on a case-by-case basis at the time of reviewing. Sometimes I use a time machine for my reviews because I want to review something that came out in 1939, sometimes because I want to review something more recent that’s out of print, or because it’s a TV show that’s been cancelled… At the end of the day, these are not the Oscars, they’re the highlights from a blog, and are therefore subject to my whim.

Exciting stuff, eh? Let’s get started!

The Serene Womble for Best Film: Dredd 3D
Dredd 3D posterEligible Films: Dredd 3D, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games

The competition was basically between Dredd 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Hunger Games. If this category were about which film I’m most likely to rewatch… well, I’d probably rewatch all of those three, but I’d want to watch The Amazing Spider-Man first and most often. But this isn’t just about which film I found most fun. Each of these was well put together and entertaining, and The Amazing Spider-Man was also visually stunning and thematically well-conceived, but Dredd 3D was just in a league of its own – beautiful and thoughtful in equal amounts. It really felt like Dredd 3D was taking sci-fi back – giving us a real vision of the future, beautiful and provocative as well as dark. Breathtaking, is the word.

I doubt this film will sweep the Real and Proper awards in the way it deserves, but here in Womblevonia I’m doing my bit to recognise originality, inspiration, and artistic genius where I see it. Congratulations, Dredd 3D! Well deserved.

The Serene Womble for Best TV Show Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones Season 2 Promo 'The Clash of Kings has begun'Elligible TV shows: Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Misfits, The Fades, The Hollow Crown: Part I, Richard II

Tough crowd. I mean, we have The Fades, one of the most strikingly original and well-executed British fantasy TV shows in a good many years – a real tragedy that it was not renewed for a second series. Then there’s The Hollow Crown‘s adaptation of Richard II, which contains some of the very best Shakespeare I have ever seen performed, and for one of my least favourite plays, at that, including a truly spectacular performance from Ben Whishaw, as Richard II, and a simply wonderful portrayal of John of Gaunt by Patrick Stewart. And although Doctor Who has been highly questionable over the last year, I can’t deny that ‘A Town Called Mercy’ was excellent. Yet Game of Thrones is still hands down the winner, for me. It feels unfair to some of the competition to give it the Serene Womble for Best TV Show two years in a row, but given that it was even better this year than last year, I don’t feel that I can really deny it. Performances by Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and Maisie Williams were stand outs, but everybody was bringing their A-game. The special effects were incredible – I now believe that dragons exist and that they are both very cute and very dangerous. Pretty much every element of music, direction, and writing was outstanding, and it stands out in my memory as the best thing I have seen all year.

As they say on these here Internets: All of The Awards.

The Serene Womble for Best Web Series The Guild
The Guild PromoEligible Web Series: The Guild, Dragon Age: Redmption

Well, maybe not all of the awards. This is a new category introduced to include the burgeoning genre of web series. I was tempted to roll it into the TV shows Womble, but, upon reflection, I must concede that web series are their own medium. They are usually shorter and are often much lower budget. It’s neither fair nor practical to try and compare them to much longer, much higher budget shows. Moreover, they are developing their own tropes and styles and on the whole exhibit a different character to their televisual brethrin.

That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition in this category. Both these shows are Felicia Day creations, and whilst I did watch other web series over the course of the year, I can’t deny that Felicia is the mistress of this genre – she has not only talent but the extra experience of being one of the founders of this artform. It means that she’s been at it for longer, but also that she’s better known. Nevertheless, it is notable that The Guild greatly outstripped Dragon Age: Redemption. I suspect this is in part due to the fact that Felicia will have had much less control in the latter, but I also didn’t find her own performance as convincing. In all honesty, The Guild is just in a league of its own. It has the geek-following to bring in stars for the extensive cameos that were a feature of this series, and it’s starting to get the money that allows it to do more things. It’s also excellently and knowingly written for the audience that powers the Internet: geeks. Not to mention the spot on performances of the other cast members: Vincent Caso, Jeff Lewis, Amy Okuda, Sandeep Parikh, and Robin Thorsen.

It’s a deserved win, but with more and more people finding it natural to watch their visual content online, more TV stars using short videos as a way to get a bit more exposure and make a bit more cash on the side (see, for example, David Mitchell’s Soapbox), there’s a blooming new arm of the media that I’m thinking I need to investigate further in the coming year. I’m interested to see how things develop.

The Serene Womble for Best Actor Ben Whishaw
Ben Whishaw as Richard IIElligible Actors: This category is open to any actor in any recent production that I’ve reviewed in the past year – film, TV, radio, podcast, whatever. I do not discriminate by gender. It’s a fight to the melodramatic death and the best actor wins, regardless of what’s between their legs or how they identify.

This was a tough one. I feel bad for stinting Peter Dinklage for the second year running after praising him so highly, but it was a strong field, and he did contribute to the overall Game of Thrones win – keep it up, Peter, there’s always next year. Lena Headey was also giving all the players a run for their money with her outstanding performance as Ma-Ma in Dredd 3D – a real performance of a lifetime. But I can’t deny the just deserts for Ben. He took a role I’d never especially liked or understood and made me see it from a completely different angle – an angle that was utterly compelling and heart-breaking. In all honesty I was far less impressed with Parts II and III of The Hollow Crown (and I somehow missed Part IV), and I’ll not deny that Tom Hiddleston did a good job, but Richard II blew me away, and Ben Whishaw was the lycnhpin of that production. Incandescent. Any actor that can ellucidate not just the character they are portraying but the themes of the play and have that render their performance more compelling rather than less, and to such a level… sheer genius.

Thank you, Ben, for showing me Richard II the way you see him. Have a Womble.

The Serene Womble for Best Novel Rome Burning, by Sophia McDougall
Rome Burning cover art Eligible Novels: A Dance With Dragons, Kraken Romanitas, and Rome Burning

This one was probably the hardest. Kraken is the most imaginative novel I’ve reviewed this year, and it was certainly a gripping as well as intelligent read. However, it did have some minor gender issues, the attempt at rendering London accents was unconvincing, and although I found the exploration of personal identity fun, it was inconsistent.

Rome Burning‘s alternate history setting was imaginative in a different way. For exploration of gender, race, and cultural issues it was outstanding. The characters were interesting and varied. The pace was fast and gripping. The politics, nuanced and intriguing. And, overall, the harder-to-define ‘squee’ quotiant was just higher than for anything (new) I’ve read in a long time.

Romanitas, the first book in the trilogy of which Rome Burning is the second, was also good, gripping, and squee-worthy, but the writing was not quite as strong and the world-building was more developed in the second volume.

A Dance with Dragons is what it is: a novel to which I have mysteriously devoted a surprisingly large chunk of my life in reviewing; part of a long series that has given me both great joy and great frustration. Perhaps it is unfair to put it up for assessment when the review is as yet incomplete, but I’ll give you a sneak preview and say that, for all its good points, A Dance with Dragons was not really competition for any of the above.

The Serene Womble for Best Comic Romatically Apocalyptic
A wallpaper made by Alexius from one panel of Romantically Apocalyptic

Eligible Comics: Real Life Fiction and Romantically Apocalyptic

Another new category, and only two in it, but I couldn’t leave them by the wayside. Both of these are excellent, and I thoroughly recommend them to all of you. Both are surreal, hilariously funny, and gender balanced. Romantically Apocalyptic has an edge for me by being, well, apocalyptic; but then again, Real Life Fiction has Manicorn. The real clincher is the artwork, which, as you can see, is stunning. I have never seen anything like it in a web comic. Or any comic. Or ever. And the creator, Vitaly S Alexius, hands this stuff out for free. There are no two ways about it: this comic wins.

The Time Traveling Wombles

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Film The Glass Slipper
The Glass Slipper promo imageEligible Films: Robocop, Soldier’s Girl, The Glass Slipper

That’s right, I’m giving the award to a film it’s virtually impossible to buy anymore. It’s not available on Amazon (there’s a Korean film called Glass Slipper, but it’s a different movie), it’s never been made into a DVD, the only videos I can find are US vids on eBay, the cheapest was going for about £16 (inc. P&P) at time of posting. I don’t know if it’d even play on a non-US machine. My copy was taped off the telly in the 1980s. But if you can get it, I urge you to make the effort. And this is really what reviewing via time machine is all about: drawing attention to classics and forgotten works of art. How can we get great films like this pressed for DVD if nobody speaks up to say that they are wanted?

The Glass Slipper is beautiful, sweet, and knowing. To me, it is the definitive cinderella story, and that’s not just the nostalgia talking. I feared it would be when I went to rewatch for this review, but it’s not. This was a feminist take on Cinderella in 1955, long before anyone even dreamt of Ever After. And it doesn’t sacrifice the romance for its message; it is a heart-breaking, life-affirming, challenging, witty, and beautiful work of art.

This is not to discredit its competition, however; both of the other films were clear contenders, although each is very different to the others, and it was hard to make the comparison. Robocop is a cleverly written and directed critique of capitalism. Its ultra-violence and gritty realism stand at stark odds to The Glass Slipper’s colourful fairytale punctuated with surrealist dance-interludes. Soldier’s Girl is a moving and powerful adaptation of the true story of a soldier who was beaten to death for loving a transgender woman. It perhaps didn’t have the artistry of the other two movies, but I don’t know that you want a lot of whistles and bells for such a movie – its task is to tell someone else’s tale and command the viewer to witness a crime and recognise an injustice. It would be wrong for a director to grandstand and steal the show. So, what do you do, when confronted with three such different films, ones that resist judgement on equal grounds?

I think you have to go with your gut. The Glass Slipper is the one that had the deepest personal influence on me, playing a pivotal role in shaping my psyche and helping me figure out what sort of a woman I wanted to grow up to be. Children’s or ‘family’ movies are often over-looked as less serious art objects than ‘adult’ films*, but they help to form the worldview a child is exposed to when they are trying to figure out what this existence, this life, is all about. Films like The Glass Slipper, which show a child a multiplicity of roles for women, are incredibly important, especially when they do so in the context of a story that is usually cast to define women as romantic creatures whose ‘happily ever after’ lies in marriage, and not in independant thought. Doing that whilst keeping the romantic centre of Cinderella’s tale intact is a masterful stroke. It deserves this award.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Actor Lee Pace

Eligible actors: anyone who has acted in a film I had to time travel to watch.

It may not have garnered the illustrious Time Traveling Womble for Best film, but I can’t deny the Womble to Lee Pace – head and shoulders above the rest – there really wasn’t any competition. Lee Pace plays Calpernia, the transgendered woman that Barry Winchell fell in love with, and was brutally killed for loving. The gentle, understated approach to this sensitive role is spot on. I imagine a lot of reviews of this film will have said something to the effect of what a ‘convincing woman’ Lee Pace made – I’m not even sure what that means, but it’s the sort of thing people say when they discuss a man playing a transgendered role. I’ve known a number of transgendered women – they’re as varied as any other random woman would be from another; they’re as varied as people. Which is not the same as saying that they have nothing in common or don’t have shared experiences. I don’t want to make any sweeping characterisations of what it is to be a transgendered woman and then proclaim that I think Lee Pace matched that stereotype. What I’m saying is that he portrayed a well-rounded character – a person with loves and passions and heart-ache, with interests both important and trivial; a person whose story moved me and made me think about an important issue.

The point that moved me most – that stood out – was a moment in the above scene. It spoke to me powerfully even though it was speaking about an experience I’ve never had, and am never likely to have. Because it’s a scene in one sense about a man struggling with figuring out his own sexuality in the high-pressure environment of being a soldier in the context of the US Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy – only revoked just over a month before I reviewed this film; still in force when it was made. To a large extent, that’s what the film is about. But it’s also about a woman, struggling to be acknowledged as a woman, finding it almost impossible to date, even though she is beautiful and charismatic, because straight men won’t acknowledge her as a woman. And here she has found a man, a man she is falling in love with, and she must always be asking herself: is this just an experiement, for him? Am I his way of figuring himself out? And all this time she has been loving and supportive and understanding that this is hard, for him, but here she finaly shows her pain and anxiety. Yet, it’s still within the context of that loving, caring, understanding character. Once he has affirmed his love for her she subsumes her own pain to his need for support. It is done with so much subtlety and nuance. Lee Pace isn’t the one bawling his eyes out in this scene, but the emotion is nonetheless powerful.

That’s acting. Acting and sensitivity; just exactly what the role needed.

The Time Traveling Womble for Best Novel The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King
Cover art: The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the ThreeEligible Novels: The Blazing World, by Margaret Cavendish and The Dark Tower, Vol. 2: The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King.

I did think about including some of the works of Anne McCaffrey in this category, as I did talk about a number of them in her memorial post, but ultimately I decided that what I was really doing was celebrating a woman’s life’s work, rather than giving a review. Besides, I might want to review some of them properly somewhere down the line.

As for the two remaining novels… well, it was an unfair match. The Drawing of the Three is basically my most favourite book. The Blazing World is an important book that more people should read. It’s historically valuable and truly remarkable for its time. But it’s also the offspring of a genre (novel writing) in its infancy – the very first science fiction novel, in 1666. Don’t believe me? Go read the post.

As for The Dark Tower – ah… I suspect I shall spend my whole life trying to tease apart why it affects me so. My post, ‘Meditations on Death‘ explores just one aspect of my its power – the seductive power of the concept of death-as-release, what makes us resist its allure, and how this is expertly explored in The Drawing of the Three.

And, last of all:

The People’s Choice Award The Guild, Season 5
The Guild cast in the costumes of their avatarsPerhaps the most arbitrary of all the awards, this is the one you voted for with your feet. The selection for this award is based solely on the review post with the single largest number of hits. And this year it was a landslide, with 8,431 hits and counting, this post has had more hits than my home page. It’s had several thousand more hits than the total for all hits of my most popular month (July). The closest runners up are The Amazing Spider-man and The Hollow Crown (both around 1,000).

And it’s not even because it’s been on the blog since October last year – the hits suddenly started raining in in July. I don’t know what it was, but it seems like all of a sudden the Internet woke up to The Guild, and all I can say is that it couldn’t be more well deserved. Congrats, Felicia and friends: they like you, they really, really like you!

And that’s it! The awards have been awarded, and it’s time to start all over again, selecting novels and films and TV shows and comics and web series, and kittens only know what else, to review in a brand new Womblevonian year.

Stay serene and max for happiness, yo.

*Not that kind, dirty minds!

Reviewing Through the Time Machine: The Glass Slipper

Reviewing through the Time Machine Title: The Glass Slipper
Cinematic release: 1955
Starring: Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding
Written by: Helen Deutsch
Directed by: Charles Walters
Genre: Fairytale/Fantasy/Romance
Price: Only available on VHS. Available on eBay at time of posting at £15.75 + £11.49 P&P

It may seem a bit ludicrous to review a film you can’t even buy on a format most people would watch, these days, but that’s kind of why I feel it’s important to include these glimpses into the past, reminding us of treasures that ought to be a part of our heritage, whether the big distributors think they should be or not. And anyway, how does one create a demand for the production of great old films in DVD format if nobody talks about them? I’m glad I have my old VHS tape, but I would buy this on DVD, and I’d exhort others to do so, too.

Poster: The Glass SlipperThe Glass Slipper is an absolute classic. It is still my favourite Cinderella story film – over Ever After; over Pretty Woman; and certainly over Disney’s Cinderella, released just five years earlier than The Glass Slipper itself. It melds qualities dreamlike and suitably fairytale with a tone of wry subversion that respects and updates the source material in equal measure.

The plot does not deviate greatly from the traditional tale, but its exploration is more subtle, with more of a care for psychological realism than most. Ella is the daughter of a rich man who remarried after her mother died, before passing on himself. Her stepmother and step-sisters use her as a servant, refusing her equal standing and treatment on the premise that she is bad-tempered and dirty, even though she is only bad-tempered and dirty because they use her so ill. The narrator explains. ‘She was not precisely an amiable child… It was the old story of the rejected becoming all the more rejected because they had behaved badly because they had been rejected – one of those, err, circles… And there it was again. The heat of tears burning behind the eyes… a few more years and she will stop fighting back’.

Oh, does that ever ring true. Not that I was neglected by my parents, but I was bullied because I didn’t behave in the ways considered ‘normal’, and so I became bad-tempered, and was bullied all the more for being bad-tempered and ‘anti-social’. After a while it does kick the fight out of you. It becomes clear that shouting and fighting and speaking up for yourself does no good, and so you become quiet and ‘docile’. It’s a theme any child could identify with – everything that doesn’t go your way seems unfair as a child, but I identify with it all the more in retrospect. Somethings are genuinely unfair, but one’s complaints are taken for childish peevishness, and ignored. So it starts to seem hopeless. Why continue to cry out if your voice is never heard?

Ella, looking soot-stained and grumpyThat’s when depression hits. Whether the initial fire is extinguished or directed inwards, all external action comes to feel fruitless. If the world is deaf enough, unresponsive enough, eventually even the strongest spirits collapse, stop trying to change it. In a sense, it’s almost worse to be strong-willed in such a case, for if you stick stubbornly to your principles and what you believe is fair you can’t bring yourself to adapt to the world and enjoy it for what it is. You perceive only the bleakness of what is wrong, and the impossibility of setting it right.

It’s a complex motif, simply expressed, which a person of any race, gender, background, sexuality etc. etc. can identify with, but I do feel it would be wrong to neglect the implicit feminist critique in this archetypal tale of female aspiration in the face of limitations placed on women both by society as a whole, and by other women who have internalised society’s rules and oppressive habits. I cannot help but be reminded of this theme, following my reading, today, of this interesting reflection on the way boisterousness and ‘bad behaviour’ is treated when exhibited by men as opposed to women, as exemplified in the recent kerfuffle prompted by Christopher Priest’s comments on the Clarke Award. I wasn’t convinced by yuki_onna’s argument at first. I’ve seen men shout offensive remarks at one another on the Internet, after all, they hardly go uncriticised. And it’s not as though no woman’s critical comments are considered by some to be of worth even if they also receive harsh objections… but as she went on, I realised she’s right. If I have seen men threatened with rape for daring to voice their opinion it has happened so rarely that it left no impression. And I can’t help but recognise in myself the caveat after caveat I attach to even the most mildly worded critique on the net if I think it is likely to be at all controversial. This is not because I’m naturally timid – my parents took me to a child psychologist because of fighting at school (incidentally, the psychologist judged me completely healthy, at that stage of my life – I fought because I was provoked). In the past I have been described as ‘scary’, because of my forthrightness of opinion and boisterous attitude. I don’t think anyone would say that now, and there’s a very good reason for that: I’ve been worn down. I am tired. I don’t want to be called scary for voicing my opinion without lowering my eyes and apologising first. Behaviour that is normal and accepted in boys and men is pathologised and ostracised in girls and women (even if medical professionals can tell the difference, nowadays, the rest of the world has some catching up to do).

Mrs Tuquet defuses Ella's angst. She has put weeds in her hair as decoration.Incidentally, I’m not just going off on one, honest. Although the film treats the subject gently and with unintrusive grace, the feminist critique is undoubtedly intended. One of the most wonderful aspects of the film is the ‘fairy godmother’, Mrs Tuquet. She is a woman who has been ostracised by society herself for reading books, which Ella’s stepmother says led her to go from ‘bad to worse’. Although her behaviour is a bit strange, she seems nonetheless intelligent and kind. For example, when they first meet, she comforts Ella by gently defusing her anger at the way she has been treated, reducing the insulting corruption of her name to a mere word – showing Ella how to hear it only as sounds, sounds which can be musical or funny independently of their intended meaning: ‘”Cinderella”,’ she says, ‘I like it very much. There are other words I like very much, like “windowsill” and “elbow”… el-bow… and I like “apple-dumpling”, too – it’s a comical word’. My early attempts at self-preservation followed very much this path: if society won’t accept you, accept that you are strange and take pleasure in the freedom that can be found in being defined as different. Once you’re labelled as different it is hard to impose upon you the rules that apply to those who are still within reach of the cherished title of ‘normal’.

Ella in her servant girl clothes, with her tiny, tiny waist.

I think that's her real waist, guys - she actually does ballet in that corset!

Mrs Tuquet seems content in her ways, and yet though she has been content to adopt the reclusive, excentric lifestyle for herself she wants both happiness and acceptance for Ella. Her interventions in Ella’s life are not simply the traditional ‘makeover’ role of the fairy-godmother, revealing the beautiful, normal-looking girl under the ashes. When she asks Ella why she goes about as she does, and Ella petulantly declares that she doesn’t care what people think of her, Mrs Tuquet responds ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s no excuse for scaring people’. Of course, Ella is beautiful (one could hardly disguise Leslie Caron’s dancer’s physique), and she will receive a beautiful gown and a brush up and she will be acclaimed as a great beauty at the ball – this is a Cinderella story, after all – but the film makes a valiant effort to draw the fine line between beauty in confidence and conformity in beauty. Again, I identify strongly with both Ella and Mrs Tuquet, here. My mother and sister never understood my insistence in wearing baggy T-shirts, shunning make-up, refusing to brush my hair, and so forth; and the more they tried to force me to conform, the wilder I became. Of course, I was completely right to wear only what made me feel comfortable, but not brushing my hair and failing to use deodorant were not, upon reflection, all that valuable a form of protest.

Another fun aspect of Mrs Tuquet is that it’s never quite clear just how much of a fairy-godmother she is. She appears to be an ordinary woman, and she’s certainly never referred to as a fairy. She is known about the village as a sort of harmless thief. She steals things, but she always gives them back. The shenanigans she construes to enable Ella’s attendance of the ball appear to be a combination of theivery (stealing the dress) and calling in of favours (persuading the coachmen to do an extra run for Ella)… and yet, at the end, as she walks off, Mrs Tuquet simply fades away. I’m usually somewhat bored by the ‘is it or isn’t it’ style plot, but in this case, I approve. The suggestion is pretty strong that Mrs Tuquet is in some sense magical, yet nothing she does to help Ella amounts to something impossible for a real woman to do. In this way, Ella is not robbed by her achievement. The prince falls in love with the dirty, spirited, rude girl, and Mrs Tuquet merely facilitates their coming together, providing the opportunity for their love to flourish, and prompting Ella towards a more mature outlook that will enable her to forge her own place in the world, rather than simply handing her illusory baubles with which to attract a man.

I also like that the film openly explores the emptiness of Cinderella’s ambitions and dreams as expressed in the traditional tale. Ella has been told a prophecy, that one day she will live in the palace, but when Mrs Tuquet asks her what she will do in the palace she hasn’t a clue. And later, when she fantasises about it, even her daydream descends into a sort of boredom. I remember being puzzled by this scene as a child. The vision of the palace seemed artificially stale and empty I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get from it. I now realise, of course, that that was the point: a nebulous dream of having wealth bestowed abruptly upon one is artificial and empty, baring no concept of what in such a life would bring happiness. And once Mrs Tuquet’s questions have gently nudged her towards such a realisation, Ella’s mischievous curiosity causes her own day-dream to come tumbling down:

This is one of three dream-ballet sequences, all bar the last of which somewhat puzzled me as a child. I understood that they were dreams or fantasies (I think), but the sudden interjection of ballet into a live-action piece was striking, despite my ready acceptance of random singing and dancing in musicals and the odder flights of fancy one met with in the average Disney film of the period (pink elephants on parade, anyone?). I’m not sure this was to the film’s detriment. I found such sequences fascinating fodder for the imagination, although I don’t think I ever really understood the middle sequence as a child.

In this dream Ella believes the man she met in the woods is the son of the cook in the palace of the duke (he is, of course, the prince himself!), and her fantasy is easily converted and happily filled with thoughts of being not only a cook’s wife, but a valuable part of the kitchen staff. Far from disappointed that the prophecy might mean that she would merely work at the palace, Ella’s dream is enlivened now that she can see a role for herself within that world.

But the real prize is the final sequence, where Ella has finally discovered the truth of the prince’s identity and believes that he is promised to marry a foreign princess (a rumour started by her own enigmatic presence at the ball). The passion expressed by the lead performers elevates this ballet sequence from mere dance to true art:

I was swept up by the romance of this film as a child. For me, it was the correct Cinderella. I am ever so glad to see that it has stood the test of time. If only it were available on DVD.