Donkey Skin

1971, Movie, NR, 90 mins

Review

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DONKEY SKIN is an odd but charming combination of a number of fairy tales, blended with anachronistically modern touches and mixed up with adult themes disguised in the form of mythic euphemisms. Writer-director Jacques Demy, whose charming musical tale THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964) won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Festival, has a knack--much like Jean Cocteau--for melding traditional fantasy with contemporary grown-up concerns. Viewers will recognize variations on "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg," "Cinderella," and "Little Red Riding-Hood," among other classics, all rolled into a contiguous plot line. An incest theme is woven into the plot, but on a most ingenuous level. The Blue King (Marais) governs a strange land that contains, among other assets, a national treasure: a donkey that excretes gems and valuable coins. The king's wife (Deneuve) and daughter (also Deneuve) are the rarest of beauties. On her deathbed, the Blue Queen makes the king promise to marry only someone more beautiful than she. The Blue King examines portraits of all the local princesses, but none will do--none, that is, save his daughter, who is thereupon selected to become her father's bride. Handled with style, grace, and good humor by Demy and a fine cast (namely Marais, Deneuve, and Delphine Seyrig as a fairy godmother), the film is an enjoyable hour-and-a-half for adults that creates a wholly unique world of colorful sets, costumes, and characters. As this is a Demy film, it of course has musical numbers written by Demy and Michel Legrand, in addition to excerpts of poems by Guillaume Apollinaire and Cocteau. (In French; yellow English subtitles.) leave a comment

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