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Donkey Skin (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on July 30, 2014

As The Umbrellas of Cherbourg failed to change my opinion on the second time around, Donkey Skin failed to change my opinion on the third.  I still find it absolutely delightful.  Though it is structured more like a traditional musical, it is nonetheless the most bizarre film by Demy I’ve seen.  Bizarre in a charming way, that is.  If anything, I’m even more enamored with it than after my previous viewing.  The “cake song” still stands out a highlight (my favorite scene in the movie), but this time I felt the other songs were all pretty good as well.  I wouldn’t cut a single one of them… though Delphine Seyrig’s singing voice is a bit weak.

I’m also less bothered by the pacing than I was the last time.  There is an occasional feeling of slight sluggishness, most notably in the ring scene which is really the climax of the story.  But for the most part, the story moves at a satisfying clip.  And so many oddball joys to be found!  Demy’s wizardry is simple but adorable in its simplicity, with a dress the color of the weather and chests that open themselves.  The film revels in the pleasures of fairy tales, while also poking a bit of fun at them.  The godmother is the voice of reason in this world where a deranged king wishes to marry his own daughter, and her wry commentary speaks for the modern audience.  And I love the moment where the storybook logic of a ring fitting only one finger is questioned.

Still, while the film lambasts some fairy tale conventions, it lets others slide.  There’s a very narrow view of physical attractiveness at work here, and too much importance placed on it.  I also have a kneejerk reaction to any story that suggests everyone should end up in their “proper” class and social standing (something that also bothered me in my recent viewing of Oliver!).  I know, how annoyingly P.C. of me.  But I wish Demy challenged this notion as much as he does various other outmoded aspects of classic fairy tales.

This is a minor complaint.  It’s easy enough to ignore and rejoice in the spirit of the thing.  It’s a lovely, funny, weird, colorful and thoroughly enjoyable fantasy, with terrific music by Legrand and wonderful performances by Deneuve, Seyrig, Jean Marais, Jacques Perrin and Micheline Presle.  Fun for the whole family with a donkey that shits jewels and a fairy who travels by helicopter.  Rating: Very Good (86)

IMDb
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