The education of a princess wrapped in a love story. A king and queen live happily until her sudden death. The king decides to marry his lovely daughter. She's willing, but the Lily Fairy serves as a social conscience, intent on thwarting incest. She instructs the princess to request a series of dresses impossible to make; however, the king's tailor succeeds. So the fairy plots the princess's escape, wearing the skin of the king's prize donkey. She's spirited away to be a scullery maid dressed in the noisome skin. A wandering prince sees her in the woods and is smitten. Can love find its course, and does the princess learn a lesson of life's hardships? Written by
The fairy tale on which this colorful musical is based might not seem the most promising story for a light-hearted movie: as the story begins, a dying queen makes her husband promise that his next wife will be as beautiful as she, and his solution is to marry his own daughter. Fortunately, our heroine has a savvy confidante, the marcel-waved fairy godmother, whose worldly advice allows the girl to keep putting off the marriage. Finally, however, the princess has to flee her kingdom and, in a Cinderella twist, disguise herself as a lowly scullion. Fortunately, even covered in a donkey's skin, she manages to win the heart of a prince.
An enjoyably tongue-in-cheek combination of music, humor, and romance, this film features some of the most splendidly over-the-top costumes I've ever seen, and an adorable soft-focus, slow-motion duet between the two young lovers (with hilariously anachronistic lyrics). Actor Jean Marais, who distinguished himself in a very different fairy tale film --Cocteau's -La Belle et la Bete- --makes a distinguished if warped king, and Catherine Deneuve charms as she bakes a cake while singing the recipe--and daintily keeping her ruffled sleeves out of the batter. The fairy godmother is probably the most enjoyable character, a modish lady in high heels who has her own ideas about the king's proper romantic destiny. A plus for tourists is that much of the film takes place in actual French castles, including the one with the famous double-helix staircase.
Those who prefer a darker slant to fairy tales may enjoy reading Robin McKinley's novel -Deerskin-, based on the same story. But if -The Slipper and the Rose- is more your speed, or if you want something appropriate for all ages, track down -Donkey Skin-. Just be prepared if your daughter demands a dress the color of the moon next Halloween.
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