Peau d’âne

I tried to organize my papers to prepare for the end of the semester.  I also wanted to return home before the rain hit.  I sat down to watch the unusual “Donkey Skin,” directed by Jacques Demy.  It was a fairy tale that felt like a Fractured Fairy Tale, with a king who is attracted to beauty, so that when the queen dies, he wants to marry his own daughter.  The whole suggestion of an incestuous relationship would have been extremely uncomfortable to the American audience of 1970, so I wonder how many people here saw this film.  It was Demy’s most successful film in France.  Catherine Deneuve is the princess, and she has a fairy godmother, played by Delphine Seyring, who has ideas that aren’t really too effective.  I would have thought of this movie as more unusual and even strange before I saw “Into the Woods,” although I didn’t see what Demy’s purpose was in making the film.  One moment I liked was the princess wearing a dress that was supposed to be the color of the weather.  The princess goes into hiding as a scullery maid, bakes a cake, and has a story that is like Cinderella.  What was happening to the king during all this time?  In these fairy tales, no one goes through any emotional development, and the characters’ fates are due to chance.  There is a blue kingdom and a red kingdom, rather like Democrats and Republicans or Crips and Bloods.  There are some incongruous images in the fairy tale, or apparently so, with a telephone and a helicopter.  Demy uses some slow motion and backwards footage that feel like scenes out of Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and theBeast.”  The donkey didn’t get treated too well, and I had to wonder what happened to the financial state of the blue kingdom.  When there is magic all around, I guess something is going to be worked out.  I wondered if changing from the princess to Donkey Skin had any effect on the princess, or if she knew all along that her misery was going to be temporary.  The bright colors in this movie made me think back to Demy’s classic musicals.  “Donkey Skin” was really quite an interesting movie, although it’s not for children in the way that “The Princess Bride” is.  There is a lesson in there about not marrying a man who is too much like your father.  It’s rather disturbing that the father put the pressure on her daughter, but seems oblivious right through the ending.  The princess seems quite a fool throughout, too, and especially in the beginning.  As I watched the scene where she makes the cake, I wondered if it would really taste any good.  There is some sexual imagery in the movie, with the prince eating the cake, the rose, and the finger and the ring.  I was impressed with the number of women Demy lined up and dressed up to try the ring.  The star of the show was Catherine Deneuve, who does look beautiful in Demy’s films.  The king reminded me of Michael Shannon of “Elvis & Nixon.”  This isn’t one of your top-level Jacques Demy masterpieces, but I liked its strangeness.  Demy did try something different here.  “Donkey Skin” came between “Model Shop” and “The Pied Piper,” neither of which I’ve seen yet.  I’m starting to feel that I should look deeper into Demy’s work.  It’s enjoyable to think about his films.  Some of the people who died on December 8 include Golda Meir (1978), John Lennon (1980), Marty Robbins (1982), Slim Pickens (1983), Martin Ritt (1990), and Howard Rollins (1996).  Today is a birthday for Sinéad O’Connor (50), Teri Hatcher (52), and Kim Basinger (63).  The Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for December 8 noted the death of John Lennon 36 years ago today.

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