The Magic Donkey

 
 

Peau d’Âne (English: Donkey Skin) is a 1970 French musical film directed by Jacques Demy. It is also known by the English titles Once Upon a Time and The Magic Donkey. The film was adapted by Demy from Donkeyskin, a fairy tale by Charles Perrault about a king who wishes to marry his daughter. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Jean Marais, with music by Michel Legrand. Donkey Skin also proved to be Demy’s biggest success in France.

Jacques Demy, fascinated by Charles Perrault’s fairy tale since childhood, was working on a script for the film as early as 1962. The involvement of Catherine Deneuve was instrumental in securing financing for the production. Numerous elements in the film refer to Jean Cocteau‘s 1946 fairy tale film Beauty and the Beast: the casting of Jean Marais, the use of live actors to portray human statues in the castles, and the use of simple special effects such as slow motion and reverse motion.

 
 

Illustrations by Gustave Doré. This French literary fairytale was first published in 1695 in a small volume and republished in 1697 in Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé. Andrew Lang included it, somewhat euphemized, in The Grey Fairy Book.

 
 

A king had a beautiful wife and a rich castle, including a marvelous donkey whose droppings were gold. One day his wife died, after making him promise not to marry except to a woman whose beauty and attributes equaled hers. The king grieved, but was, in time, persuaded to seek another wife. It became clear that the only woman who would fit the promise was his own daughter.

She went to her fairy godmother who advised her to make impossible demands as a condition of her consent: a dress the color of the sky, a dress the color of the moon, a dress as bright as the sun, and finally, the hide of his marvelous donkey. Such was the king’s desire to marry her that he granted all of them. The fairy godmother gave her a marvelous chest to contain all she owned and told her that the donkeyskin would make an excellent disguise.

The princess fled and eventually found a royal farm where they let her work in the kitchen, despite her ugliness in the donkeyskin. On feast days, she would dress herself in the fine gowns her father had given her, and one such day, the prince came by her room and peeped through the keyhole. He fell in love at once, fell ill with his longing, and declared that nothing would cure him but a cake baked by Donkeyskin, and nothing they could say of what a dirty creature she was dissuaded him.

When Donkeyskin baked the cake, a ring of hers fell in it. The prince found it and declared that he would marry only the woman whose finger it fit. Every other woman having failed, he insisted that Donkeyskin try, and it fit. When she had dressed herself in her fine gowns, his parents were reconciled with the match. Donkeyskin later found that her father had remarried to a beautiful widow and everyone lived happily ever after.

 
 

For more information, see the album Donkey Skin (Costume Designs and Sketches) on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page:

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Recipe for a Cake d’Amour

To my beloved Paul Klees, on his birthday

 

Jacques Demy and Catherine Deneuve on the set of Peau d’Âne, 1970

 

Cake d’Amour
Serves one, love-sick prince

 

Ingredients:

Four heavy hands of flour
• Three eggs laid this very morning, plus one that has been sitting around for 20 days.
• An entire bowl of milk, very creamy
• Some sugar
• A breath of yeast
• A handful of butter
• A drop of honey
• A suspicion/pair of pliers/pinch of salt

 

 

Préparez votre pâte dans une jatte plate
Et sans plus de discours allumez votre four
Prenez de la farine, versez dans la terrine
Quatre mains bien pesées autour d’un puits creusé
Choisissez quatre oeufs frais car à plus de vingt jours
Un poussin sort toujours
Un bol de lait entier, bien crémeux s’il-vous-plaît
De sucre parsemez et vous amalgamez
Une main de beurre fin, un souffle de levain
Une larme de miel et un soupçon de sel.
Il est temps à présent tandis que vous brassez
De glisser un présent pour votre fiancé.
Un souhait d’amour s’impose
Tandis que la pâte repose
Lissez le plat de beurre
Et laissez cuire une heure.

 

Prepare your dough in a flat, shallow bowl.
Without any talking, light your oven.
Take the flour and lapse into the bowl four big handfuls of flour. Dig a well into the flour.
Choose three eggs which have been laid this morning and one which has been left around for 20 days.*
Add a bowlful of creamy milk to your flour and eggs, sprinkle in sugar, and combine with a wooden spoon.
Next add a hand of fine butter, your breath of yeast, a teardrop of honey, and a suspicion of salt.
Knead well, allowing your sleeves to rub against the dough.
Slip a present for your fiancé into the dough along with a wish for love as the dough rests.
Smooth your baking dish with butter [place dough into baking dish] and bake for one hour.

 

 

*Editor’s note: use unfertilized eggs. If a chick hatches from the fourth egg, set it free and do not include in cake

Like a Pair of Twins

Catherine Deneuve was born Catherine Fabienne Dorléac in Paris, France to French stage and screen actor Maurice Dorléac and actress Renée Deneuve. Deneuve has two sisters, Françoise Dorléac (who died in a car crash in 1967, aged 25) and Sylvie Dorléac (born 1946), and a maternal half-sister, Danielle.

Catherine was thirteen when she began her film career with a small role in André Hunebelle‘s Les Collégiennes (1957) with her younger sister Sylvie Dorléac, who acted in a few films casually as a child. Deneuve was credited as Catherine Dorléac but subsequently used her mother’s maiden name as her stage name in order to differentiate herself from her sisters.

Slim, pale-skinned and brunette, Françoise graced several movies before hitting stardom with François Truffaut‘s melodrama La Peau douce (1964) and the classic spy spoof L’Homme de Rio (1964) with Jean-Paul Belmondo.  Les Portes Claquent (Michel Fermaud and Jacques Poitrenaud, 1960) was the first movie  Françoise starred together with her younger sister Catherine.

 
 

Jacques Demy, Françoise Dorléac and Catherine Deneuve during an interview for their film The Young Girls of Rochefort, 1967

 
 

 
 

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967) takes place over the course of one weekend in the seaside town of Rochefort, where a fair is coming to the town square. The story centers on twin sisters Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and Solange (Françoise Dorléac) — Delphine teaches ballet classes and Solange gives music lessons for a living, but each longs to find her ideal love and a life outside of Rochefort. When the fair comes to town, Delphine and Solange meet two smooth-talking but kind-hearted carnies, Étienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale).

The twins’ mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) owns a café in the center of town, and pines for a fiancé she left impulsively ten years prior due to his embarrassing last name of “Dame.” Yvonne’s café becomes a central hub for Étienne and Bill as well as most of the other characters in the film. In the café, Yvonne meets a sailor about to be demobbed from the navy, Maxence (Jacques Perrin). Maxence is a poet and painter, and is searching for his true feminine ideal. Little does Yvonne know, her former fiancé, Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli), has recently opened a music store in Rochefort. He knows his fiancée had twins from a previous relationship, but he never met them. Solange, an aspiring songwriter, enlists the help of Simon Dame (she is unaware of his relationship with her mother), who promises to introduce her to his successful American colleague Andy Miller (Gene Kelly). As Solange is on her way to pick up her younger brother BouBou from school, she happens to bump into a charming foreigner, who turns out to be Andy. However, the two do not exchange names.

Meanwhile, Delphine is unhappy in her relationship with the egotistical gallery owner Guillaume (Jacques Riberolles), so she ends the relationship. In the gallery, as she is about to leave, Delphine notices a painting that looks remarkably like her. The image was in fact painted by Maxence. Back in the square, the two female dancers in Étienne and Bill’s show run off with sailors, so they ask Delphine and Solange to perform, offering them a free ride to Paris in return. On the day of the fair, the paths of all of the characters cross again at the town square and in Yvonne’s café.

Michel Legrand composed the score, to Demy’s lyrics. The most famous songs from this film score, which is generally less acclaimed than that for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (also directed by Demy), are A Pair of Twins (Chanson des Jumelles in French) and You Must Believe in Spring (Chanson de Maxence). The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Score (Original or Adaptation).