One of my favorite films of the still young 21st century remains Quentin Dupieux’s utterly unique Rubber. A surreal examination of the adventures of an anthropomorphic tire, Rubber left permanent tread marks on my mind in 2011, ultimately ranking second on that year’s favorite films list.
Imagine my delight when the Virtual Roxie announced the arrival of Dupieux’s most recent effort, Le Daim (Deerskin). Now screening on a device near you, Deerskin is another mind bending tale of an otherwise inanimate object taking on a life of its own — this time, admittedly, with some assistance from a sentient being.
Jean Dujarden stars as Georges, a middle-aged man who’s abandoned his wife and traveled to southern France’s remote Pyrenees mountains to, presumably, experience his midlife crisis. Georges’ undertaking begins with the purchase of an old hippie’s mint condition fringed buckskin jacket, the sort of thing that would probably still set Neil Young’s heart racing.
The jacket is beautiful – so beautiful, in fact, that its smitten new owner begins to converse with it. During one of their late-night chats, Georges impulsively decides that no one else in the world can be allowed to wear a jacket; Deerskin responds that its greatest dream is to be the only outer garment in the world. Kismet!
An encounter with barmaid and amateur film editor Denise (Adèle Haenel) — who once re-edited Pulp Fiction in chronological order just for a laugh — sets Georges off on a further quest: to make a deeply personal film about his efforts to rid the world of the blazers, hoodies, and tunics competing against his beloved jacket. Using a second-hand DVR, he begins to shoot his masterpiece.
As with Rubber, the viewer will need to completely suspend disbelief and simply accept the strange world Dupieux has created for them: “eliminating every jacket”, says Georges, “is huge. It’s going to take time.” By way of contrast, Deerskin clocks in at a brisk 76 minutes, its story of sartorial obsession a short, sharp shock to the senses.
David Cairns’ Shadowplay is one of my favorite cinema sites, and Cairns himself a talented filmmaker and instructor at the Edinburgh College of Art. Though his 2014 feature Let Us Prey was undone by heavy-handed studio intervention, his 2013 documentary Natan (co-directed with Paul Duane, and now streaming for free) is dazzlingly good.
All but forgotten today, producer Bernard Natan brought — amongst other innovations — both sound and color to French cinema. According to Natan, his erasure from the historic record largely stems from a toxic cocktail of anti-semitism and accusations of involvement in the pornographic trade during the 1920s. His demise in Auschwitz circa 1942/3 meant he was robbed of any opportunity to reclaim his legacy, but Cairns and Duane make a strong case for a reassessment.
Over at the Pacific Film Archive, the recent Romanian feature La Gomera (The Whistlers) has been added to the Archives’ Watch From Home menu. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film is a crime drama set on Spain’s picturesque Canary Islands, where an ancient whistling language is being used by criminals and the film’s protagonist – a corrupt policeman named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) – to gain access to a mattress full of money. One caveat: The Whistlers’ dense plot demands your full attention, so don’t rent it unless you’re willing to remain glued to your screen for its full 97 minutes.