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
Being a university student in the 60's, in Toronto, it was a given that one saw as many foreign films as possible. The French New Wave was happening so we all trudged off to see the latest incomprehensible (to me) Godard or the new, much more accessible Truffaut or the ever bleaker Bergman or the latest jaw-dropper from Fellini and woe betide you if you dared to admit that you didn't "get" Antonioni. We knew how to pronounce the names of Japanese and Czech directors and argued the merits of Bunuel. We were into it, man. Cinema (not "the movies") was our passion. So how did "Peau d'Ane pass us by? I'd seen "The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg" of course. Who hadn't? Jacques Demy and Michel Legrande were practically house-hold names and yet no one raced off to see "Peau d'Ane". I'm sure it must have had a theatrical release, here and I dimly remember being aware of it at the time but it certainly didn't have the "Oh muh God!" critical reaction and word-of-mouth that would have turned it into the cult hit that it should have been. With no CGI and, by today's standards, the simplest of special effects, this movie is utterly magical and astonishing. I suspect that, for 1970, it was just too "French". The story is an (apparently) beloved French classic by Felix Perrault but quite unknown outside French culture. The title, "Donkey's Skin" and a slightly ick-factor plot line may have put off critics and audiences at the time but I'm now convinced that every director of the spate of fantasy movies that we currently enjoy has been heavily influenced by "Peau d'Ane".
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