Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review - Peau d'Ane (1970 - Dir. Jacques Demy)

When I interviewed The Saw Lady back in April of this year she recommended Peau d'Ane (translation - Donkey Skin). My heart sank because it's a musical and as you may be aware of by now, I really don't like musicals. But I've watched it. Without any ranting. Possibly a first for a musical.

It's pretty good. Yeah, you read that right. I actually like a musical. Peau d'Ane is a fairy tale, but not your average Disney version of a fairy tale. Originally written by Charles Perault in the 17th Century (The Brothers Grimm rewrote some of his stories) this is up there with Rumpelstiltskin as one of the most disturbing fairy tales. It contains a donkey that poops treasure and an activity that definitely wouldn't make it into the Disney version.

If Jean Rollin directed fairy tales they would feel like this. The shots of castles could come straight from one of his films. My favourite shots though are of a dirty-faced princess wearing a donkey skin running in slow motion. It could be argued that this gets overused but I never got tired of watching that donkey-skinned princess run. The whole film is the most fairy tale like of any film I've seen. Everything from the gorgeous costumes to the lighting and the sparkly special effects just feel right. Then there's the music...

Now this is where the carefully crafted atmosphere could all have fallen down for me, but the songs added to the overall feeling. At times the soundtrack feels a bit like something Stelvio Cipriani could have written, and when the singing starts I can imagine it being something that Doccortex would probably enjoy listening to. Michel Legrand has done a fine job. Have a listen for yourself. (If you fancy.)

I don't want to give any of the plot away but rest assured that Kings, Queens, Princesses, Princes and a Fairy all feature heavily. The Princess is played by Catherine Deneuve and is the subject of many males' attentions in the film. I think that the lads had got it all wrong and should have been going after the Fairy (Delphine Seyrig) instead. 

My one disappointment with the film is that the end of the story feels very similar to Cinderella (also written by Perault). Given that the start is an original breath of fresh air, this is a shame. Just when you think it's all going to end in a standard issue way though, a helicopter enters the fray. This is not the most bizarre occurrence as blue and red faced people (and horses) appear as well as a talking rose, and there is an old woman with some of the most wayward ginger hair that I've ever seen.

I was doubting that any of the musicals in the Musical Season would get a rating of 5 or above but I was pleasantly surprised by Peau D'Ane. So it's a big thank you to The Saw Lady for a quality recommendation.

If you like this you could also try:
Fascination, Lola, Last Year At Marienbad.

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