French director Quentin Dupieux masters a strange craft. He is a cinematic surrealist, for want of a better word, and splashes his talent in the waters of absurdity like a toddler in a paddle pool. With a sandcastle on one side and an ironing board on the other, he succeeds in forging a sincere tale. And if this entry makes no sense to you whatsoever, then welcome to his world.
Dupieux began his career as a successful electronic musician who went by the stage name Mr Oizo, and when he transitioned into filmmaking, there was substantial celebration and conversation about his style. His debut feature was Rubber, an absurd horror film about a car tyre that, obviously, comes to life and kills people. It was a bizarre creation, to say the least, and it announced him as a potential auteur to keep an eye on. Surely enough, his subsequent films Wrong, Wrong Cops and Reality cemented his reputation for auteurism, and his latest title Deerskin adds to his catalogue of oddities.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) stars as Georges, a man who is obsessed with his newly purchased deerskin jacket. He poured his life savings into buying it and he leaves the world he knows behind him for a life in the mountains without a cent to his name. As Georges, Dujardin dons the deerskin jacket with enthusiasm and relishes the opportunity to play silly, his trademark charisma and debonair looks giving the film immediate appeal.
To reveal more of the narrative would be to wade into spoiler territory, however it can be said that his obsession with the jacket leads to unnatural behaviours, as well as a newfound interest in filmmaking and a strange dive into the criminal world.
When it comes to Dupieux’s work, you either love it or hate it, and there isn’t much grey area on the matter. Some will rejoice in the absurdity, while others will find it to be monotonous. Until now I have teetered more towards a general dislike of his work (with an appreciation for his audacity). However, Deerskin presents a new level of charm that overpowers the nonsensical nature of the proceedings. And with handsome cinematography and a resonating musical score, Deerskin looks and feels like Dupieux’s most accomplished work to date.
At 77 minutes, the film is an easy watch, and were it not for a few gratuitous moments of preposterousness – such as Georges sucking a gold ring off the finger of a corpse with its face blown off – it might have successfully avoided fatigue. As such, Dupieux’s brand of filmmaking must be acknowledged as repetitive, and only thanks to each film having uniquely defining plots does he keep a viewer like myself interested.
I admire his ability to maintain control within the ever competitive and overly saturated world of independent cinema. His voice is unique and important, and at all times provocative… and yet with six feature films now under his belt, I am very keen to see what he might do in a bigger commercial environment. Much like Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Michel Gondry before him, I imagine there’s so much more in store for us; may Hollywood come knocking.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★✩✩
‘Deerskin’ is in limited Australian cinemas from August 6th.