Thursday, April 30, 2020

Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin

“Clothes make the man,” Mark Twain told us. In this case, they make a French loser obsessive and delusional. Georges turns outlaw after donning a vintage Davy Crockett-style jacket. Indeed, he is so taken with it, he wants it to be the only jacket in the world, which is fine by the jacket in French provocateur Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin, which opens virtually tomorrow.

Apparently, Georges has gotten the boot from his wife, but he rebounds with the jacket. Unwisely, he blows all his cash on it, before he discovers his wife froze their joint account. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The deerskin fringe just called to him. Fortunately, the seller threw in an old digital video camera that will allow him to pose (dubiously) as a filmmaker while hiding out in a provincial tourist town, during the off-season.

Despite his cluelessness, Georges recruits Denise, the local bartender and an aspiring film editor, for his film project. She can tell he is an amateur, but his supposedly experimental footage appeals to her hipster sensibility—especially when he starts filming the murders his jacket tells him to commit.

It is rather baffling how a dreary misfire like Deerskin could be picked up for distribution when Dupieux’s drolly subversive Keep an Eye Out has yet to get a real American release. Frankly, the best things about Deerskin are composer Janko Nilovic’s Bernard Hermann-esque musical cues. Unfortunately, the playfulness of Dupieux’s past films (especially Wrong, Reality, and Keep an Eye Out) is largely missing this time around. Instead, Dupieux belabors tired themes of “toxic masculinity.” If you don’t know what that term means, it is the kind of swagger the G.I.’s had when they liberated Europe from fascism. Obviously, they look askance at that kind of “toxic” thing in France.

Jean Dujardin is truly cringe-worthy as Georges. That means he did his job faithfully, but it does not make it any less unpleasant to watch. However, Adele Haenel manages to scratch out the film’s only laughs as the drily deadpan Denise. Arguably, her acidic yet understated performance is too good for this film.

Despite Haenel’s work, Deerskin will be a bitter disappointment for anyone who appreciated the unruly postmodernism of Dupieux’s previous films. It perfectly illustrates how cinematic rebels can lose their edge when they chase the approval of the trendy buzz-word-wielding crowd. The truth is the world needs more confident masculinity in films, not less. As proof, we present Dupieux’s Deerskin. Not recommended, it opens virtually tomorrow (5/1), in conjunction with the Angelika Film Center and City Cinemas in New York.