Classic Fairy Tale Gone Wrong: Grieving King Lusts After Daughter


Recently restored, this buttery Perrault-derived romp directed in 1970 by singsong nouvelle vague fantasist Jacques Demy offers, characteristically, a concise demonstration of the disquietude inherent in classic fairy tales. That the story involves the marriage lust of a grieving king (Cocteau axiom Jean Marais) for his luscious daughter (Catherine Deneuve) is only the wacky Freudian nut; around them gallops a soft parade of costume ball silliness, frog-spitting hags, blue-skinned servants, talking yellow roses, out-of-body rendezvous, and fastidious gownery. Demy contrasts authentic French castles and cardboard interiors, sun-sparkled northern French glades and hot-pink gel splashes, sleight-of-hand F/X and fluorescent iris-outs. Perrault is a smashup of incorrect royalism and medieval misogyny, and Demy is mostly hands-off—until climactic wedding guests arrive on the palace lawn in a helicopter, an Alex Cox-ian jolt that suggests a subtle farcical program that suddenly became explicit. Likewise, the images of Deneuve, three years after her mud bath in Belle de Jour, groveling in the forest dirt wearing a flea-bitten pelt seem conscientiously transgressive.