Posts Tagged ‘Adele Haenel’

What a pleasure it is to be able to visit the cinemas in and around Leicester Square once more – it’s like being let out of prison, even if doing so at the moment involves staggering through the streets of London rather like Edward Judd at the beginning of The Day the Earth Caught Fire. (Where can a person get a stillsuit when they need one?) Being able to see the big Hollywood releases is all very well and good, but the great all-song of cinema is incomplete without the quirky little themes and unlikely melodies provided by less mainstream fare you only find in independent cinemas.

With Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin (F-title: Le Daim, which apparently translates as either The Deer or The Suede) we are certainly some way off the beaten track, drawn there, perhaps, by the star power of Jean Dujardin, who was rather famous around the world for The Artist a while back but has shown a creditable disregard for the siren song of American movies. Not that Dupieux is without a certain reputation of his own: in addition to writing and directing (amongst other things) 2010’s Rubber, the greatest film about a homicidal tyre with psychic powers ever made, he also had a sort of music career as the creator of Flat Eric and the Flat Beat (google at your peril: some things are best left forgotten).

As the film opens we find Dujardin on the road. He is playing an ordinary-seeming fellow named Georges, but it soon becomes clear he is perhaps not such an anonymous chap: stopping for a break, he abruptly decides to take off his coat (an inoffensive green corduroy number) and attempts to flush it down the lavatory, not very successfully. (There’s a story that Martin Fry of the pop group ABC once attempted to do the same thing with a gold lame suit.)

Anyway, the now-shirtsleeved Georges reaches his destination, where he is making a purchase from an old man. He’s buying a replacement jacket, made entirely of deerskin, and he seems absolutely delighted with it – despite the fact it is obviously too small and too short for him. Nevertheless, he coughs up more than 7000 Euros for the thing, receiving as a sort of bonus a small digital video camera.

Resplendent in his new jacket, Georges drives off to somewhere remotely Alpine and checks into a hotel, despite the fact his credit card has stopped working. Conning the staff into letting him stay on, he decides – despite a total lack of knowledge or expertise – to pass himself off as an auteur film-maker, and starts presenting himself as such at the local bar, where he befriends barmaid and aspiring editor Denise (Adele Haenel).

There is so clearly something not quite right about Georges that it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when he starts carrying on conversations with the jacket, supplying its contributions himself. It’s not even as if this is a case of a troubled man having found a friend, for the jacket has an ambition it wants Georges to help it achieve. Fortunately, Georges has his own dream, and – what are the chances? – the two things dovetail perfectly…

Yup, another tale of a man undergoing a mid-life crisis and forming an unhealthy co-dependent relationship with a psychotic piece of clothing: only from the director of Rubber could this really be described as a step towards more mainstream and accessible fare. At least it’s clear what this is: it’s a horror-comedy, or possibly a comedy-horror, albeit one with a very distinctive tone to it.

This is a real slow-burner of a film, which starts off looking relatively normal before slowly sliding into the realms of the truly bizarre. From the start it is completely deadpan, with perhaps the faintest touch of a knowingly tongue-in-cheek feel: as the story progresses and Georges’ behaviour becomes more and more outlandish, you’re increasingly aware that the story is completely ridiculous and implausible – never mind the farcical way in which Georges’ breakdown expresses itself, there’s the behaviour of all the other characters, and the mysterious non-appearance of the police or media (given a gory and substantial killing spree takes place).

And yet it stays very watchable and engaging, rather than becoming absurd to the point of complete silliness. This is mostly down to Jean Dujardin, who carries the majority of the scenes himself and brings an enormous amount of understated conviction to Georges: a peculiar and rather sad individual he may be, but he’s not unsympathetic, and it’s Dujardin’s portrayal of his vanity and cluelessness which really finds the veins of black comedy running through the film.

Helping very much is Adele Haenel, as someone theoretically sane but proving to be remarkably credulous as the film goes on and Georges’ tales of what he’s up to unravel. Unlike Dujardin, Haenel plays it entirely straight – or at least as straight as the material will permit – which just adds to the oddness of the film. Are we supposed to conclude that life in small-town France is so dreary she’s prepared to engage in a kind of folie a deux with Georges just because it offers the prospect of escape? (Possibly folie a trois if you count the jacket.)

Unfortunately, any resolution of all this is limited, at best: Deerskin lasts a brisk and peculiar 75 minutes or so and then ends, the story having come to an abrupt and largely unresolved stop. It’s not just another of the formal post-modern pranks which Dupieux inserted so many of into Rubber, as there is a vague attempt at conventional storytelling involved here (exposition is laid in well in advance). This doesn’t make the lack of closure any less unsatisfactory, though.

Oh well. I enjoyed Deerskin a lot more than Rubber, and frequently found myself laughing out loud at the sheer deadpan strangeness of it, mainly as manifested through Dujardin and his performance. This is about 75% of a really good film; the problem is not that the other 25% isn’t up to the same standard, it’s that it just isn’t there at all.

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