Wednesday, February 22, 2006

That'll Be a French Film, Then

The latest issue of Film Quarterly features a nostalgic look at the much-loved Jacques Demy movie Peau d'âne (Donkey Skin, or The Magic Donkey).

"Under the opening credits, we see several books. The largest among them opens, introducing our tale: “Once upon a time, there lived a king....” The source of this King's (Jean Marais) prosperity is a magic donkey, which excretes gold and jewels instead of manure. In addition to this limitless wealth, the King is blessed with a beautiful wife and daughter. Suddenly, though, the Queen (Deneuve) falls gravely ill. On her deathbed, she insists that the King promise to remarry, but only if he finds another woman as beautiful and virtuous as she. However, the only one who fits these criteria is their own daughter (also played by Deneuve). The King rashly decides that he will marry her.

Horrified, the Princess seeks advice and help from the Lilac Fairy (the deliciously devilish Delphine Seyrig), who counsels her to ask the King for several outrageous gifts-culminating with the skin of the magic donkey-as conditions of marriage. Desperate, the King reluctantly agrees, but before a wedding can take place, the Fairy helps the Princess (disguised in the horrible donkey skin) to escape to a faraway kingdom. There she assumes an alias as a lowly scullery maid called “Peau d'Ane.”

Don't you wish you knew how it ended?

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