Queer Enchantments: Gender, Sexuality, and Class in the Fairy-Tale Cinema of Jacques Demy by Anne E. Duggan (review)
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Queer Enchantments: Gender, Sexuality, and Class in the Fairy-Tale Cinema of Jacques Demy. By Anne E. Duggan. (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies.) Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013. x + 196 pp., ill.

Despite being the director of one of the most significant French films of the 1960s, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), Jacques Demy remains one of the more critically neglected of the new-wave directors. To date there has been no anglophone study of his entire career, and few francophone ones, most notably those by Jean-Pierre Berthomé(1982) and Camille Taboulay (1996). The retrospective dedicated to him at Paris’s Cinémathèque française in April–August 2013 and the beautiful catalogue that resulted suggest an increasing interest in his significance, and Anne Duggan’s intervention is perfectly poised to capitalize on growing awareness of his cinema’s darker and more challenging political and sexual underpinnings beneath its deliberately sparkling, bright surface. Demy’s attraction to the fairy tale is most obviously demonstrated through his 1970 adaptation of Charles Perrault’s Peau d’âne. Duggan demonstrates that this tale was the perfect vehicle for Demy’s interest in non-normative relations. With its undercurrents of incest and bestiality, Peau d’âne was always already a potentially disturbing tale (one whose subversive potential Perrault undermines). Through deploying camp strategies and via homage to Jean Cocteau, Demy ‘situates his film within a larger cinematic movement that challenged not only traditional aesthetic standards but also heterosexual norms’(p. 69). Duggan convincingly argues that Demy aligns desire for sexual liberation with acute awareness of class difference, so that in his Lady Oscar (1979), a commissioned adaptation of the Japanese manga The Rose of Versailles and placed within the fairy-tale genre of the warrior maiden tale, ‘breaking open the constraints of gender and sexuality [...] is inseparable from challenging class prejudices and oppression’ (p. 132). As well as discussing Demy’s films that are clearly adaptations of or highly influenced by fairy tales, Duggan also shows how the fairy-tale format undergirds his films that may not immediately seem to fall into this category, most notably Lola (1961) and Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. In a carefully argued chapter Duggan suggests that the fairy-tale motif of waiting is key to understanding the dynamic of this film, and, again, that norms governing class and sex relations are in play. Shop-owner’s daughter Geneviève fails to wait for her working-class prince, Guy, coerced instead by her snobbish mother to marry bourgeois Roland. ‘The relationship between a petit-bourgeois woman and a working-class man violates social codes in the same way that same-sex relation violates heterosexual ones. [...] It is precisely because of this queer subtext that the heteronormative fairy-tale genre must give way to queer melodrama’ (p. 37). Bringing together strands from film studies, fairy-tale studies, and queer theory, Duggan offers original readings of Demy’s films, showing how they question mutually reinforcing class and sex prejudice in twentieth-century France. Given her focus, she is unable to engage with all of Demy’s films, which suggests the urgent need for more work on this director whose themes — queer desire, class consciousness, camp intertextuality — resonate with the contemporary French cinematic landscape. This book is a model of scholarship and comes highly recommended to anyone interested in Demy, the new wave, and its legacy, and the fairytale’s [End Page 440] fascinating potential for subversion and questioning via an enchanted realm akin to cinema itself.

Fiona Handyside
University of Exeter
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