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
PEAU D'ANE has not been easy to find in the US, so the recent restoration has allowed fans of Jacques Demy's romantically-tinged films a chance to finally see it.
The 1970 film turns out to be a true European fairy-tale film. The story is presented un-Disneyized, with many bizarre, even repellent components. The king's donkey produces riches, mainly coins and jewels, from its anus. And when his wife dies, the king wants to marry his own daughter, a concept met with only mild bewilderment. Surely for many, these and other details will seem strange and off-putting. Yet the original versions of many well-known fairy-tales are much more violent and bizarre than we would suspect from the typical Hollywood treatments they tend to get.
The most distinguishing features of Demy's film are the production design and the music. Costumes, and especially sets in this film could often be described with no better a word than 'kitsch'. The king's throne is a huge, stuffed white cat that looks like something he won throwing darts at a carnival. Many objects that seem out of place in royal palaces are on display in the film, along with costumes that betray their true decade of origin. But this may be Demy's conscious intent, maybe the influence of the Nouvelle Vague, of which he was never more than a marginal participant. The film's climax contains the most blatantly anachronistic thing and pretty much convinces the viewer that the director never wants it forgotten that this is, after all, a movie.
For some reason, the songs written for PEAU D'ANE by Michel Legrand have not become better known. Perhaps this is due to the relative obscurity of the film itself. It's a typical Legrand score, using and re-using a handful of tunes throughout. Fans of the composer will not mind, since the songs are characteristically infectious and even haunting.
The cast is populated by some of the most attractive and interesting performers available to French film at the time: Catherine Deneuve, Jacques Perrin (who would go on to direct WINGED MIGRATION), Jean Marais (the great Cocteau collaborator), Delphine Seyrig and Micheline Presle.
A one-of-a-kind movie from an underrated director.
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