Friday, August 11, 2006

Donkey Skin


Dir: Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

Looking for a movie with a light hearted take on incest? How about one with a donkey who craps money? Then this one is for you!

The team that brought the blissful Umbrellas of Cherbourg offers a campy fairy tale, full of enough surrealism and kitch to keep one interested. Catherine Deneuve is a Princess whom her lusty father yearns to marry. Her Fairy Godmother hurries her away to live in hiding as a peasant donning, I am not kidding, the skin of a donkey. The skin is a like a cape with a giant donkey head for a hood. Oh, and her boss spits frogs. More than occasionally crossing over into Sid and Marty Croft trippyness, the film is certainly a product of the 70's.

The point here is to capture to wonder of a children's story and take it seriously. I think the film is pretty good at doing that. The Cinderella elements to the narrative are always welcome, and the movie clearly has so much fun with the subject matter that you are willing to go along with it. I can't say any of the acting is particularly good, or that the film is well written. Its musical numbers pale in comparison to the sensitive Cherbourg.

The standout elements of the film are set design and costuming. All of the clothing is over the top, especially a series of dresses that are commissioned to resemble celestial bodies. The sets look a lot like Barbarella, with purposefully tacky and fake elements taking center stage. The King has what looks like an amateurly stuffed giant white house cat, there is a plastic stag, Christmas lights are everywhere. This isn't the product of a low budget, but a deliberate allempt to add artificiality to the scenes, since of course the fairy tale is a fantastical genre. One intrusion of modern technology is unexpected, and reinforces the theme.

Not really my cup of tea, but an interesting evening for those with a particular interest in fairy tales, Catherine Deneuve, or the the experimental side of the New Wave.