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“…the confusion between the real and the marvelous… is the essence of enchantment.”–Jean-Louis Bory on Peau d’âne
DIRECTED BY: Jacques Demy
FEATURING: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Delphine Seyrig, Jacques Perrin
PLOT: The Blue King lives happily in a fairy tale castle with his beautiful wife, his beautiful daughter, and his magic donkey who shits treasure. When the Queen dies, she makes the King swear that he will only marry a woman more beautiful than she is; unfortunately, the only woman meeting that description is his daughter. Seeking to escape a coerced marriage to her father, the Princess consults her fairy godmother, who advises her to put on the donkey’s skin and flee the kingdom to live as a scullery maid.
- The story is based on a fairy tale by Charles Perrault, a Frenchman who collected and transcribed European folk tales a century before the Grimm Brothers embarked on their similar project. (An English translation of the original “Donkey Skin” can be found here.)
- Previous French stage adaptations (and a silent film version) of the fairy tale rewrote the story to omit the incest theme entirely.
- Jacques Demy had wanted to adapt the fairy tale as early as 1962, hoping to cast Brigitte Bardot and Anthony Perkins, but at the time he was not well-known enough to raise the budget he would have required.
- This was the third musical Demy directed featuring Catherine Deneuve, following the massive international hits The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). Although it received the least exposure of the three in the U.S., Peau d’âne was Demy’s biggest financial success in France.
- The skin the Princess wears came from a real donkey, a fact Deneuve was unaware of during filming.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Divine Deneuve in donkey drag.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Coughing frogs; fairy godmother in a helicopter
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Picking a fairy tale to adapt into an all-ages musical, Demy goes for the one with the incest-based plot.
Trailer for restoration of Peau d’âne (Donkey Skin) (in French)
COMMENTS: The musical was not a major force in French cinema Continue reading 31*. DONKEY SKIN (1970)