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Donkey Skin aka "Peau d'âne" [Blu-ray]
(Jacques Demy, 1970)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Marianne Productions
Video: Criterion Collection Spine #718
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 41,825,334,762 bytes
Feature Size: 27,058,636,800 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: July 22nd, 2014
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio French 2978 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2978 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
• French television interview from 1970 with director Jacques
Demy and actors Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, and Jacques
Perrin on the set of the film (11:45)
Description: In this lovingly crafted, wildly eccentric adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, Jacques Demy casts Catherine Deneuve as a princess who must go into hiding as a scullery maid in order to fend off an unwanted marriage proposal—from her own father, the king (Jean Marais). A topsy-turvy riches-to-rags fable with songs by Michel Legrand, Donkey Skin creates a tactile fantasy world that’s perched on the border between the earnest and the satiric, and features Delphine Seyrig in a delicious supporting role as a fashionable fairy godmother.
Donkey Skin begins with the sweet words, "Once upon a time," but the narrator's voice sounds rather detached, almost creepy. Demy focuses intensively on different shades of blue throughout; many in the film's fairy-tale kingdom have blue faces, including some dwarves who look like early oompa loompas. The King (Marais) is distraught when his wife (played by Deneuve in a brown wig) dies. In his grief, he turns to his daughter (Deneuve at her blondest) and insists on marrying her, at which point everyone watching should get out their Penguin Freud. Aghast, the Princess is counseled by the Lilac Fairy (Seyrig, wearing her Daughters of Darkness blond marcel weave) to stall her father by asking for lots of specific gowns, then by asking for the skin of his magic donkey, who shits gold and keeps the kingdom in funds. To her horror, he obliges, and the Princess is forced to take refuge as a scullion in the provinces. But a handsome prince in red (Perrin) comes to her rescue, eventually.Excerpt from Slant Magazine located HERE
Demy creates a surreal dream world that is estranged from the reality of time or place, and by existing solely in a fairytale/fantasy space the film never transfers a true blast of earthbound tensions to the viewer (at least to me). It would be like an adult reading a children's fairy tale book and being expected to be sated by the irony of contrasting the seemingly idyllic fairy tale world with the never ending imperfections of the real world. The problem is that this is a film for children (or outsiders), but is too childlike in its telling for adults to savor and too adultlike in its more subtle themes for children to fully appreciate. Instead it becomes a visionary exercise, Jean Cocteau-like if you will, in its idealistic visions reflecting the discomfort over possible incest and how perverse the so-called normal people can become when they are pressured by life's everyday demands.Excerpt from Dennis Scwartz located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Donkey Skin looks solid on Blu-ray from Criterion. Peau D'ane was shot in 1970 on 35mm silver color stock in a 1.66:1 panoramic format and was restored in 2013 by the laboratory Digimage. The restoration of the images was made in digital 2K from a 4K digital scan of the original 35mm. Mathieu Demy supervised the grading. This Blu-ray is dual-layered with max'ed out high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. Colors are rich and vibrant (reds!) and there are frequent examples of pleasing depth. I appreciated the thickness which really adds a film-like expression. This Blu-ray is clean and has no noise or other discernable flaws. It supplies a wonderful 1080P presentation.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
A whopping new DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 2978 kbps in original French sounds wonderful. The highlight, again, is the Legrand score. The sound was remastered based on the work dons by Arkamys from the mix and the original stereo tapes of the music and songs. I presume it to be a strong replication of the original. I hear no hiss, dropouts or other flaws and sung vocals are consistent. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.
Criterion load-up the supplements starting with a 12 minute French television interview from 1970 (the program "Pour le Cinema") with director Jacques Demy and actors Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, and Jacques Perrin on the set of the Donkey Skin. “Donkey Skin” Illustrated is a short, 11-minute, 2008 program on the many versions of Charles Perrault’s fairy tale shown with images from several illustrated editions. “Donkey Skin” and the Thinkers is a 17-minute 2008 program on the themes of the film, featuring critic Camille Tabouley, psychoanalysts Lucile Durrmeyer and Jean-Claude Polack, specialist Liliane Piccola who talk about incest, love and childhood fantasy. In an excerpted audio recording from 1971, director Jacques Demy answers questions about his filmmaking and storytelling methods from students at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. It is 42-minutes long. The Demy package includes a booklet featuring essays by critics Ginette Vincendeau, Terrence Rafferty, Jim Ridley, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Anne E. Duggan, and Geoff Andrew, and a postscript by Berthomé.
July 8th, 2014
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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