The Pied Piper (1972)

“Gentled by the lilting musical contribution of Donovan (who plays the Piper), Demy’s film isn’t quite so harsh as the Grimms’ version but, if it pulls some of its punches, they are felt nonetheless.”

‘The Pied Piper’, directed in 1972 by Jacques Demy, is a colourful, stylised retelling of the fairy-tale that features a host of British character actors including John Hurt, Michael Hordern and Diana Dors, along with folk singer Donovan playing the title character. It’s sumptuous and deceptively slight, but a film that engages with social issues of the twentieth century and especially late 1960s and early 1970s including social justice and anti-semitism. It felt familiar, and has the feel of a film that should really be a part of our national consciousness, a childrens’ movie that resonates with a Sunday afternoon-ness, but instead it felt more like a lost treasure. The story is familiar but moving, the performances were broad by enjoyable. Where this movie really excels is with its ironic approach to history and to the medieval period. Rich textures, outrageous costumes and elaborate sets, this is the Middle Ages processed through Hollywood and then undercut with the satirical nature of the story and the parodic hyperbole of the acting. I’m struggling to get deeper with this film, mainly because Jez Winship said it all much more clearly here.

Would I recommend it? Yes! It’s a lovely film. If you’re feeling brutal, watch is in a contrasting double-bill with Tarkovsky’s authentic feeling ‘Andrei Rublev’, but if you want more ironic history watch with Pasolini’s ‘Canterbury Tales’.


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