Once upon a time, there was a country called France. In this mythical place lived a film director and a composer called Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand. Jacques was a technically brilliant director with a love of technicolor musicals; Michel had his moments, but tended to recycle leitmotifs a lot. They were both a little bit in love with a beautiful princess called Catherine Deneuve. Their first two films were bright and colourful, modern and cool. Their third film together was a musical fairy tale, and it was called 'Peau D'ane', or 'Donkey Skin'.
Based on a story collected by Charles Perrault, 'Donkey Skin' tells of a Princess whose comfortable existence at a happy court comes to an abrupt end with the death of her mother. After a short period of mourning, her father decides that only one woman can be compared to his beautiful late wife - his daughter, and announces that he wants to marry her.
|It certainly is.|
|There is no empirical evidence to support this statement.|
|A dress like the Moon.|
|Dead dirty Donkey.|
|Will you marry me?|
|The French Prince of Hard Air.|
So what's the film like? Well, weird, as most films based on fairy tales are, especially those that stick closely to the original text and have a bit of a 'Singing Ringing Tree' vibe. The production looks fantastic, with an amazing use of colour and settings, and a few anachronistic flourishes to keep us guessing: the Queen is buried in a plexiglass dome; the King travels by helicopter, that sort of thing. It's all a little stretched out but keeps moving and never feels unnecessarily padded. The main issue I have is that the music is, well, trite, and is used over and over again until you wish you could slam a piano lid down on Legrand's fingers. The soundtrack reaches its nadir with a crappy ditty about baking a cake which basically details the steps in baking a cake. Yes, the arrangement is moderately groovy, but the rest goes beyond banal to a place where an opera about paint drying would be preferable.
Not entirely successful then, but recommended all the same - it's definitely worth seeing, and it has subtitles, so you can always turn the music off.