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Jacques Demy
France, 1970

Jeff Koons described his sculpture of a voluptuous blonde holding the Pink Panther as being “about masturbation. I don’t know what she would be doing with the Pink Panther other than taking it home to masturbate with it.” I kept thinking of this quote during Donkey Skin, Jacques Demy’s campy, psychedelic fairy tale musical. Koons’s quote is funny for the way in which it so straightforwardly marries wholesome pop culture to the subversive, and Donkey Skin has a similar effect. The beginning of the film, in which a beautiful princess must attempt to evade the king’s incestuous plans to marry her, takes place in his stylized funhouse of a castle. The king’s throne is a giant stuffed cat. Our instinct may be to ask why. The world of Donkey Skin is far removed from any world we’ve encountered onscreen or off. Yes, a fairy tale is accepted as existing in a faraway world, but Walt Disney never created anything so lurid and strange. The more psychedelic flourishes Demy uses, the more we can imagine him straightforwardly speaking of their necessity à la Koons talking about the Pink Panther and masturbation. Why wouldn’t the throne be a giant cat, Demy might say. Why wouldn’t the fairy godmother dress like Judy Jetson and blissfully flip her head like someone in a shampoo commercial? Donkey Skin is quite possibly the most sparkly film ever made. The screen can barely contain the glimmers of elaborate costumes and sets. Such sparkle could be punctuated by a comic book sound effect – zing! – and Demy likely wouldn’t want to present this weird fairy tale any other way.