Male Pride and Killer Style in Quentin Dupieux’s “Deerskin”

Male Pride and Killer Style in Quentin Dupieux’s “Deerskin”

Writer/director Quentin Dupieux is a master of the strange and darkly absurd. His films exist in a world all of their own, skewing away from normality and hitting the road of emphasized idiosyncrasy. His film Wrong follows a man who wakes up one morning to find his dog missing; while he searches for it, we find he works in an office where the sprinkler system is constantly activated, a tree he did not plant begins to grow in his backyard, and a pizza delivery woman falls in love with him over the phone. His film Rubber follows an anthropomorphized tire who kills people with its telekinetic powers. His latest film, Deerskin, follows Georges, a man who’s obsessed with his recently purchased Italian suede deerskin jacket, which has a criminal effect on him.

Georges, played beautifully by Jean Dujardin, blows his life savings to buy this jacket and, distancing himself from his estranged wife, goes to stay in a sleepy French town where he must use his gold wedding ring as collateral to stay at the town’s hotel. He proclaims himself a filmmaker but records on an old cassette tape recorder. When a woman in the town tells him that her passion is video editing he doesn’t even know what type of “machine” is used to edit. All we or the townspeople know about him is the mask obscuring the fraud he truly is. He’s so obsessed with his deerskin coat that he wants to be the only one in the world wearing any outerwear that might compete with his. Georges uses his filmmaking guise to film people swearing to never wear a jacket and then putting theirs in the trunk of his car. He pays them and then takes their garments.

The story is absurd, but it’s the subtext of the film that enriches and elevates its themes. The people Georges shows off to in the town are women, and the person he hires to be his editor is a woman. This film is about male pride and the mentality of being No. 1 while actually being a zero. Georges has no money, he’s separated, and instead of trying to make a life for himself, he just shows off a deerskin jacket. He is style over substance, and even that is a lie perpetuated by his pride; he really isn’t stylish. Therein lies a secondary theme directed at the movie industry.

Since it’s a film about a filmmaker I perceive this film as a big middle finger to the Hollywood ethos, or, at least, to the hubris of a director. Even Georges’s hiring of a female editor is a comment on how women are frequently the editor to a celebrated male director’s film. Regardless of content it’s the editing that makes or breaks a movie. Martin Scorsese has Thelma Schoonmaker; Quentin Tarantino had Sally Menkin up until her passing in 2010; George Lucas had Marcia Lucas through Return of the Jedi; and classics like Dog Day Afternoon, Bonnie & Clyde, The Breakfast Club, and Reds all had Dede Allen. Even Patton Oswalt has a bit in his special Talking for Clapping where he jokes that men spew film everywhere and think themselves as important geniuses and then a woman comes along and does the work to “make a baby.” Dupieux has existed outside of the Hollywood zeitgeist, living in his own particular world of indie filmmaking, and it seems this point of view has been boiling up within him. It’s him pointing a finger at Hollywood and commenting on the hypocrisies. Acting as his own writer, director, cinematographer and editor he has an interesting perspective on story and on Hollywood at large.

Films often end up focusing on style over substance. It’s an unfortunate result of an oversaturated and rapidly moving industry, and artists are constantly frustrated by studio notes and the financial necessity of universal sensibility. Even the tip of the blockbuster movie mountain is guarded by production dragons, and regardless of one’s reputation the dragon’s fire usually melts the director’s armor. Most recently Warner Bros. did an almost complete reshoot of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, having Joss Whedon helm it without credit. A backlash erupted so intensely that Warner Bros. is now putting $30-40 million toward the deemed “Snyder Cut” of Justice League to be put on HBOMAX in 2021. And it has always been a trend in Hollywood to use the highly-repeated and vague phrase “creative differences” when explaining why a director went their separate way from a project. When you go the indie route, you are judged solely by reputation because you have to be your own producer and raise your own money. These examples are the more extreme end of what can happen when differences obstruct the progress of a movie, and studio notes are normally helpful to a script; if there’s a lack of a motivation in a story a studio will come back with notes about it or the lack of a love interest or villain and so on. When someone from the indie world, accustomed to the experiencing creative freedom, enters the blockbuster world, personal feelings often get in the way, which is why Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) ended up not making Marvel’s Ant-Man and why Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) were fired from Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Dupieux displayed a worthwhile discussion on the arrested development of “man.” Pride can act like an addiction in the mantle of a survival mechanism. That pride had overshadowed the pure art that exists within Dupieux’s and many other indie films or films created by auteurs whose opinions outweighed the studio’s. In the era of the comic book film, it’s refreshing and crucial that a film like this comes along to be a good story with interesting characters and a discussion about something greater than what is on screen.

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