Donkey Skin (1971)

Donkey Skin (1971)

“I love you, my daughter, and wish to marry you.”

A king (Jean Marais) whose dying wife (Micheline Presle) makes him promise he will only remarry if he can find someone wiser and more beautiful than herself decides that his grown daughter (Catherine Deneuve) is the sole suitable candidate. After seeking advice from her fairy godmother (Delphine Seyrig), the conflicted princess (Denevue) runs away from home dressed in a donkey skin, and meets a prince (Jacques Perrin) whose love may rescue her from her dire situation.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Catherine Deneuve Films
  • Delphine Seyrig Films
  • Folk Tales, Fairy Fales and Mythology
  • French Films
  • Incest and Incestuous Undertones
  • Jacques Demy Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Musicals
  • Royalty and Nobility

Jacques Demy’s adaptation (with cheery music by Michel Legrand) of Charles Perrault’s fairytale is an odd affair indeed — starting with the central conflict, which leaves one decidedly uncomfortable. Marais clearly isn’t a villain (he loves his wife and wants to “do the right thing” for the sake of his lineage) yet his request is untenable and icky: if one should obey one’s parents but not commit incest, what’s a girl to do? Thankfully, Marais’ Oedipal interest in his daughter is never manifested beyond hypothetical plans. Instead, the story shifts to a Cinderella-esque tale, with Deneuve going undercover in rags and a ring replacing the specially-sized glass slipper. The colorful costumes and sets are truly gorgeous, and Seyrig has fun in her role as Deneuve’s fairy caretaker — but this one will likely only appeal to fans of Demy’s unusual oeuvre.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Magical sets and costumes

  • Vibrant cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look simply for the gorgeous visuals — and of course Demy fans will want to check it out.


One thought on “Donkey Skin (1971)

  1. Not must-see – but I will qualify that:

    I don’t seem to be much of a fan of director Demy’s work, overall (I may have seen 5 of his films), so it could just be that I can’t relate to his sensibility much.

    By looking at the post for ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort’, I reminded myself that I did enjoy that particular film. But ‘Donkey Skin’ is one that does nothing for me at all. (Who is the target audience here?; kids who like all things French?) It reveals a kind of preciousness that – to me, anyway – feels forced. As well, the visuals and overall design appear more tacky than “gorgeous”. I realize that the goal was a standard fairy-tale look but, oddly, the appearance of mostly everything seems heavy rather than light.

    An exception is Seyrig – who, I agree, stands out (almost as though she’s in a different film) and she does seem to be giving her own, appropriate take on the fairy tale mood and spirit.

    Generally, the film has the feeling of lumbering along from beginning to end. I do actually like a well-told fairy tale. I just don’t think ‘DS’ is among those.

Leave a Reply