Donkey Skin (1970)

“Following the death of his beautiful wife the Queen, a King searches for a young princess to marry, promising his wife before he died that he would only marry someone more beautiful than her. After an exhaustive search, the King is convinced by his aides that the only princess that fits the bill is his own daughter, a younger spitting image of her mother… Advised by her Fairy Godmother the Princess is able to escape by hiding under a donkey’s skin, disguised as a scullery maid. In the town where the Princess is hiding out, a Prince will soon be traveling through, he searching for his true love. Some magical forces tell him to follow his heart, which if he does not listen may make him miss finding his true love, namely the Princess, known in those parts only as Donkey Skin”

– Huggo, IMDB.

Donkey Skin, also known as Peau d’Âne, is a 1970 French film directed by Jacques Demy. The film is based off of a 1695 fairy tale by Charles Perrault, best known for his versions of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty. Demy’s Donkey Skin stars Catherine Denevue (Repulsion, The April Fools, and The Hunger) as the titular character. Jean Marais, who plays the King, previously played the Beast in Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, which Demy references throughout Donkey Skin. 

Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below…)
Right off the bat, I really enjoyed Donkey Skin. The majority of movies on this blog are entertaining because of how ill-planned or ill-produced they are. Donkey Skin on the other hand, had a great deal of effort and thought put into it. It’s a beautiful film to watch, it’s very clear that a huge amount of thought and planning went into every part of this film. This wasn’t a movie rushed through the production pipeline to try and capitalize on a big studio release like so many other Princess movies I’ve showcased. This is a very unique film produced by a director who has a very specific vision, and who was able to bring that vision to the screen.

That said, there are some things to poke fun at with this one. There’s a lot of odd design choices throughout this film. Take a look at the small gallery below to see what I mean.

All those odd choices really help give the film a unique look. Personally I found it really engaging, quite often I found myself thinking something to the effect of “That’s so weird… I love it”.

Another thing I appreciate about this film is that it takes a look at a seldom told fairy tale. The reasons why Donkey Skin isn’t told more often is obviously due to the uncomfortable plot point of seeing a King try and marry his own Daughter, but Demy’s film thankfully keeps things pretty PG.

Overall I’d really recommend this one. I really wish that Demy did more fairy tale films, I would’ve loved to have seen what he would’ve done for them. I should note though, this film is subtitled, so keep that in mind if that could affect your viewing experience.

References

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