Donkey Skin (1970)

donkeyskin1Donkey Skin takes the unique world of Jacques Demy and steps it up a couple of notches. The story is based off a fairy tale and brims with all the necessary trappings accented by the French director’s own flourishes.

Once again the music is supplied by Michel Legrand and the songs are a mix of playfully fun and sometimes solemn songs that help dictate the path the story takes. As far as the tale itself goes, it revolves around a beautiful princess who sends herself into a forced exile wearing a donkey skin. It all sounds rather odd, but she is given the idea from her fairy godmother, in order to keep her father from marrying the princess.

The world is a fanciful array of gaudy fake interiors, blue people, red horses, a treasure-dropping donkey, oddly-masked creatures, a talking parrot, princesses, princes, and some rather alarming potential incest. This is no Disney endeavor by any means and its bright colors often call to mind Hippy culture.

donkeyskin2Into this land, the princess flees covered in her donkey skin and takes on the lowly role of a scullery maid where she is belittled and looked down upon. However, a glum young prince happens upon her in all her beauty and wants nothing more than to marry her. In fact, he plays sick just so he can be with his gorgeous vision. Instead of Cinderella’s slipper, this story deals with a ring which is only to fit the finger of his true love. A whole to do is made out of it with people coming from far and wide. However, the prince already knows who he wishes to wear it, after all, it came in a cake that Donkey Skin baked for him.

In the end, this fairy tale receives the happy denouement that is expected with plenty of riches and love for all. The film used simple but nonetheless mesmerizing special effects that add a touch of magic to this tale. It also gets bookended by some obligatory narration concluding an enchanting fairy story fit for children, mothers, grandmas and anyone else who is willing to partake. Although not as memorable as his earlier musicals, it seems that Donkey Skin sees Jacques Demy at his fully realized creative powers in a way that is uniquely his and fits with many of the trademarks he developed earlier. Furthermore, Catherine Deneuve proved that she is beautiful even wearing a donkey skin hoodie. It’s hard to say no to a movie with her in it, no matter the topic.

3.5/5 Stars

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