Donkey Skin
(Peau d’Ane)

Screening on Film
Directed by Jacques Demy.
With Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Delphine Seyrig.
France, 1970, 35mm, color, 90 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Institut Français

Enchanted since childhood with the fantastic, utopian realms of the fairy tale, Demy finally adapted one of his favorites to the screen. Demy fills Charles Perrault’s classic 17th century tale with sparkling rainbow costumes, set design and effects—playfully reveling in dismantling normalcy through imaginative incongruities and dreamy, childlike logic. Naturally, Catherine Deneuve plays the most beautiful woman in the world whose death leads Jean Marais’ king to select his own stunning daughter—also Deneuve—as his new bride. Another goddess of French cinema, Delphine Seyrig plays the confused princess’ decidedly modern Fairy Godmother who casts a spell so the girl may escape as an ugly beast into Cinderella territory, finally mesmerizing a dreamy prince who glimpses her true beauty. Summoning multiple time periods and Cocteau references, Demy’s funny mix of the plausible and the mundane with the mythical, the magical and the taboo—makes clever, understated room for subversive ideas about wealth and class, domestic and gender roles while directly reflecting cinema’s unique power to freely experiment with alternative realities.

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