Film Review: Deerskin (Le Daim)

Writer-director Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin (Le Daim) is absurd and entertaining. The film is a real treat.

Georges spends his savings on a fringed, deerskin jacket. Holed up in a country motel, Georges becomes obsessed with his jacket, and wants to be the only jacket-wearer in the world… 

Deerskin (Le Daim) offers an outlandish and intriguing premise. The idea that a jacket is controlling its owner is an amusing premise, and one that should hook viewers. As the film gets underway, it is interesting to see where Dupieux will run with this. 

The film combines humour with darkness in a very successful manner. Comedy is present throughout, with the humour turning darker as the narrative does. There are a lot of laughs to be had, with Dupieux makes even the violence a source of comedy. 

Running at 77 minutes, Dupieux tells his story in a succinct manner. At one point, it is unclear exactly how the filmmaker will conclude the story. Deerskin has legs to continue with its absurd story; some may feel it is a shame to end things when it does. Nevertheless, the finale is satisfying. The ending exemplifies the film’s excellent combination of comedy and the macabre. 

Depieux explicitly plays with the idea that films need a message. Using the overt device of Georges making a film, there are plenty of jokes about the protagonist’s lack of knowledge and Denise reading something into the footage. Jean Dujardin delivers a great performance as Georges. His deadpan delivery is essential, and Dujardin carries this off very well. Adèle Haenel provides good support as Denise, although it is very much the protagonist’s story. Music is used well throughout the film. 

Deerskin is a very entertaining watch. The film marries creativity and accessibility in an amusing package. 

Deerskin (Le Daim) is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Film Review: The Connection

The Connection

Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection is an absorbing crime drama loaded with style. The cat-and-mouse dynamic offers increasing tension in this true story tale.

Pierre Michel is a rising French magistrate who is transferred to work in the organised crime unit in Marseilles in the 1970s. Pierre dedicates his time battling to bring down the notorious “French connection” drug ring, much to the displeasure of kingpin Tany Zampa…

Based on real events, The Connection focuses on the same organised crime outfit as William Friedkin’s The French Connection. Director and co-writer Cédric Jimenez focuses on a later period, and keeps the action rooted in Marseilles.

At the heart of The Connection is the chase of a criminal by a law officer, despite the wider implications of the drug ring in the film. The cat and mouse set up works well. With two French heavyweights in the protagonist roles, The Connection echoes Heat. The narrative is carefully crafted to retain the viewer’s interest. Audiences will have a fair idea of how the film will pan out, but the journey is sufficiently absorbing. The Connection‘s story is well crafted; exposition is dropped in early on to rear its head in a way which is unexpected.

Although the focus is on the story, The Connection‘s action sequences are executed well. There are some moments of real tension; Jimenez excels in building these scenes. The film features some good cinematography, particularly in the club scenes and across expansive landscapes. Music is used effectively to convey mood and to situate the changing era.

Leads Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche both offer strong performances. Dujardin and Lellouche are believable in their roles, although the former has a meatier character. Casting in the supporting roles is also good.

The Connection offers both style and substance. It may not be remembered as a classic of the crime genre, but Jimenez’s film is certainly a worthwhile watch.

Film Review: The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

George Clooney’s The Monuments Men promised more than it delivers. The stellar cast are let down by the film’s uncomfortable structuring.

During World War II, a platoon led by George Stokes are tasked with artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves. With so many art works missing, the team face the extensive challenge of tracking them down and returning them to their owners…

Produced, directed, co-written by and starring George Clooney, The Monuments Men sends a clear message on the importance of art in culture, society and history. This is an admirable theme, based on an admirable real-life mission.

Where The Monuments Men comes undone is in its structure. There is little character development of the main players in the film. Instead of getting to know the protagonists, viewers are offered a montage sequence at the beginning of the film in which the men are called to action. This does not give the audience a chance to get the to know the characters as individuals, or get a real sense of their relationships with one another.

As a result, it is hard to feel engaged by these characters. Although the overall mission is commendable, The Monuments Men does not really connect its protagonists with the audience. The mission undertaken is an interesting one. However, it lacks the peaks of drama and tension needed. The climax of the film does not pack the punch it should.

There is an unevenness of tone that pervades proceedings. Whilst the assignment of the team and the wider context is of course serious, The Monuments Men leaves small gaps for lightness. The comedy here is gentle, and exudes the nagging feeling that the humour was supposed to be more amusing than it is.

The Monuments Men features a desirable cast that are underused for the most part. This is particularly true of Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin. Matt Damon has a little more to do, but his character is devoid of sufficient personality.

The fact that The Monuments Men focuses on the events rather than the characters did not have to be a negative. However, because of the lack of time dedicated to introducing the characters, the film fails when it tries to inject emotion or a sense of danger. On paper, The Monuments Men had the makings of a decent movie, but in reality it falls short.

Film Review: The Artist

Films about cinema and the film industry rank among some of the best films ever made; one only needs to think about Sunset Boulevard or Singin’ in the Rain for example. The Artist continues in this vein of quality. Michel Hazanavicius’ film is spellbinding and an unadulterated joy.

In the Hollywood of 1927, actor George Valentin is a huge star of silent pictures. Bumping into a young hopeful on the red carpet, George helps give Peppy Miller her break into acting. While Peppy’s career is just beginning, George is concerned by the arrival of talking pictures…

The Artist features a wonderful combination of humour and drama, set against a backdrop of the Hollywood studio system. It is similar to Singin’ in the Rain in that it covers the transition from silent films to talkies. However, The Artist comes at the topic from a different vantage, being a silent film itself. The film is self-reflexive, playing a little game with audiences with its use of sound.

The Artist relies to a certain extent on the viewer’s awareness of Hollywood history. Humour is based around this, but also on the hammy performances that the film itself makes reference to. Archetype roles, such as the move executive, are a source of great amusement. Even in moments of heightened drama, The Artist will pull the rug from under and deliver a punch line.

The sets, costumes and props are excellent, helping to generate the sense of spectacle. Cinematography is at times sublime with some superb composition. The score is so important to the film’s success, and Ludovic Bource’s music works incredibly well. There is also an unexpected but marvellous use of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score.

Performances are great, particularly from lead Jean Dujardin. The film also features one of the cutest and most talented dogs ever to appear on screen. Simply put, The Artist is majestic. A must-see film.

The Artist is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.