Tag Archives: Quentin Dupieux

CAPSULE: DEERSKIN (2019)

Le Daim

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Jean Dujardin, Adèle Haenel

PLOT: A middle-aged man becomes obsessed with his new deerskin jacket.

Still from Deerskin (2019)

COMMENTS: “Sorry, but isn’t your movie weird?” One suspects Quentin Dupieux lifted that line verbatim from his own life experiences for this screenplay. It’s one of many self-references in Deerskin, whose main character is a delusional fraud1 posing as an independent filmmaker while undergoing a midlife crisis.

Never fear, Deerskin—a movie about a man, a leather jacket, and the destructive pledge that binds the two together—is indeed a weird movie. But considering the manic maximalism of Dupieux’s last major outing—2014’s Reality, which seemed like it had about fifteen interweaving subplots in a dreams-inside-of-dreams structure—Deerskin is relatively restrained, focused on only two major characters and a single absurd conceit. In that sense, it’s almost a ian film. Indeed, aside from the odd opening (which will be explained later) and a scene of Jean Dujardin flushing his corduroy jacket down a public toilet, nothing beyond the moderately quirky occurs in the film’s first fifteen minutes. Dujardin’s character is clearly not all there, and occasional horror movie violin strikes suggest looming disaster, but it’s not until his deerskin jacket starts talking back to him that Dupieux leans into the scenario’s inherent eccentricity. The idea that we see the film from Dujardin’s insane perspective “explains” his strange activities for the rest of the movie, and perhaps makes it more palatable for general audiences not accustomed to the dream-logic universes Dupieux typically creates.

Dupieux likely slows down the craziness in order to take advantage of Dujardin’s presence. The stately actor is Deerskin‘s biggest asset, and the movie is almost Dupieux’s take on a character study. We suspect that the idea of an abstract, arty study of a man in the midst of an existential crisis is what attracted the French star to the project. Ruggedly handsome, if growing a bit paunchy, with a distinguished touch of grey in his beard, Dujardin creates a character who is deeply insecure and ridiculous—because he’s both vain and a bit dim. Unmoored and wandering, fleeing a relationship for reasons unstated, Dujardin gives his withered self-confidence a coat of luster with the deerskin jacket, which he believes gives him a “killer style” that everyone envies and talks about. But, in his mind, it’s not enough that he own the world’s coolest jacket—wouldn’t it be better if he owned the world’s only jacket?

The jacket concurs.

I don’t know if Deerskin‘s subdued style really fits Dupieux’s talents. He’s always been an over-the-top auteur with a unique voice, and his lack of restraint in focusing his ideas has always been a key part of that voice. I can’t say that maturity and self-reflection fits him any better than Dujardin’s too-tight jacket fits his character. Although Deerskin may be a bit easier for the neophyte to buy into than Dupieux’s previous larks, I’d still recommend the novice start off by jumping into the deep end with the slasher spoof Rubber, where the director sets out his bold manifesto of “no reason.” You can circle back to Deerskin later and see if you think the director is aging gracefully, or if he needs a truly wild midlife crisis of his own to remind him of his youth.

Deerskin is a victim of 2020’s pandemic, unable to receive even the usual limited release in theaters. Distributor Greenwich Entertainment is releasing it online and sharing half the revenue with the local theaters who would usually screen it; you can find a list of participating institutions at this link. The movie hits home video in late June.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“‘Deerskin’ is funny, weird and original; it features two charismatic stars, and it does everything it needs to do in only 77 minutes.”–Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle (contemporaneous)

220. REALITY (2014)

Réalité

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”–Philip K. Dick

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Kyla Kenedy, Jon Heder, Jonathan Lambert, Élodie Bouchez, , John Glover

PLOT: A young girl (improbably named “Reality”) spies a videotape inside the entrails of a wild hog her father shoots. Meanwhile, Jason, a French-speaking novice director, gets the green light for a screenplay he is working on about killer television sets, but only if he can find an Oscar-caliber scream of pain to insert in the film. Jason’s producer is also funding a fiction film from a former documentary director who, coincidentally, is using Reality as his lead actress, while the stressed would-be filmmaker finds he is having nightmares that are increasingly difficult to wake from.

Still from Reality (2014)
BACKGROUND:

  • Réalité, Quentin Duepieux’s fifth film, was a French/Belgian co-production. The story is set in southern California, although many of the characters primarily speak French.
  • Although Duepieux usually scores his own films, the only music in this film is a repeated phrase from Philip Glass’s “Music with Changing Parts.”
  • The male Award Presenter in Jason’s dream is Michel Hazanavicius, Academy Award-winning director of The Artist (the female Presenter is Rubber‘s ).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Jason’s recurring dream where he is at an awards ceremony, awaiting announcement of the award for best groan in movie cinema history. He’s the lone human in a sea of blank-faced mannequins in tuxes.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Viscera video; eczema on the inside; this film doesn’t exist yet

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In his short five film career, Quentin Dupieux has established a distinctive—and divisive—comic vision. His absurd sense of humor takes killer tires, dog-turd detectives, and electronica-snob cops and tosses them into twisted, self-aware scenarios. Reality sees him take a darker turn, venturing deeper into his subconscious, foraging for nightmares.


U.S. theatrical trailer for Reality

COMMENTS: In Reality, a mother reads a bedtime story to her Continue reading 220. REALITY (2014)

READER RECOMMENDATION: STEAK (2007)

Reader recommendation by Caleb Moss

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Ramzy Bedia, Johnathan Lambert

PLOT: After he is released from being institutionalized in a mental ward facility for seven years because he was accidentally framed for the murders committed by his high school friend Georges, Blaise is flung into a strange, incongruous near-future where 1950’s kitsch a la “Happy Days” and extreme body modification mingle together swimmingly.

Still from Steak (2007)
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Quentin Dupieux, as readers of this website are fully aware, has a young, idiosyncratic film career replete with odd meta-humor and other peculiarities. This sadly maligned debut feature is no different: it distinguishes itself through its mixture of ageless plastic surgery disasters, masochistic cricket bat gang rituals, wryly absurd dialogue, and very warped buddy comedy dynamic.

COMMENTS: Blaise is a very unfortunate, albeit slightly dimwitted, individual to be friends with the likes of Georges, who is by all accounts a superficial opportunist who carelessly places Blaise into predicaments that cause his mind to slowly unravel until he becomes a disfigured shadow of the loser Georges once was. If the previous description makes it sound as if Quentin Dupieux created something along the lines of a heart-wrenching melodrama, then fret not: this film is incredibly funny, sporting strange conversational oodles which skewer humor trends, clique culture, and even a few self-referential jabs at Quentin’s own career as an electronic musician. Also noteworthy is what may be some of the finest use of shallow focus framing in Quentin’s output, quietly transforming the bandage-wrapped, post-op profile of Georges into something distorted and rather unnerving.

This film features some of Quentin’s most ambitious sound production as well, pulling together fellow French electro collaborators Sebastian Tellier and SebastiAn on board to produce a consistently eccentric and addictive soundtrack which fades and swells in and out of the film’s oddity-rife tapestry.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“In many ways Steak is a much weirder film than Rubber.”–Rich Haridy, Rich on Film (DVD)

 

CAPSULE: WRONG COPS (2013)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Mark Burnham, , Arden Myrin, , , Marilyn Manson

PLOT: Los Angeles cops sell weed (hidden in dead rats), harass aerobics dancers, blackmail each other, and compose electronica; anything but fight crime.

Still from Wrong Cops (2013)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With a few exceptions (like a fatally wounded music aficionado who refuses to kick the bucket), this black comedy is missing the unique conceptual meta-humor of Quentin Dupieux’s first two movies. It plays more like mildly edgy sketch comedy—it’s almost mainstream.

COMMENTS: One strange lesson you’ll take out of Wrong Cops is that American peace officers love European-style techno music. The other lesson is that, although Quentin Dupieux does surreal comedy well, his general outlook is too bemusedly sunny (a la genial absurdists like ) to create a truly biting satire about policemen behaving badly. True nastiness doesn’t seem to be in Dupieux’s makeup, so Wrong Cops ends up being more like Bad Grandpa than Bad Lieutenant. Although the movie’s cops are intended to be morally corrupt, only Mark Burnham‘s Officer Duke comes off as totally depraved; Eric Wareheim’s breast-obsessed patrolman, for example, is far too teddy-bearish to disturb, even when he’s forcing women to disrobe at gunpoint. The desire to make a black comedy about cops behaving badly mixes poorly with this director’s basic lack of cynicism. (The unexpected sweetness of Dolph’s search for his missing dog in Wrong was a better fit for his sensibilities). The not-quite-dead body that is never disposed of is one dark moment that works, as is Officer Duke’s spontaneous, pot-fueled eulogy about Hell on Earth that closes the film, but in general the somewhat flat comedy routines are more mild than wild.

With five cops to follow (plus a pair of gay officers who show up occasionally but don’t have a plotline of their own), there’s a lot going on, and Dupieux makes the movie into something of a L.A. block party by inviting a number of recognizable bit players. Eric Roberts stops by as a movie director, and is in there for a few minutes, while her “Twin Peaks” hubby has a slightly larger role as a police chief presiding at a funeral. Marilyn Manson (out of makeup) plays a hassled teenager; despite the fact that he’s in his forties, he is actually surprisingly convincing as a misfit kid. Unobtrusive but obvious references to Rubber and Wrong are also placed in the movie for Dupieux fans. The sprawling cast adds to the sketch-comedy feel, although the overarching plot (which is partly told out of sequence) is more carefully constructed than most viewers give it credit for: if Officer Duke never harasses David Delores Frank about his taste in electronica, the movie’s big tragedy never occurs. Dupieux’s core fan base will probably be pleased with this entry—and it does have its weirdly funny moments—but personally, I’m getting diminishing returns on his unique sense of humor with each subsequent film. The abstract meta-comedy that seemed rule-rewriting in Rubber has become expected and merely entertaining by the time we reach Wrong Cops.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…tonally weird and totally forgettable.”–Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle

151. RUBBER (2010)

“Quentin will probably lose some people along the way, because he is never demonstrative, doesn’t tell you what you must feel at a particular moment with a little music saying you should laugh or be scared. His vision is absolutely free, it is at once controlled and instinctive, that’s what he stands for, and that gives the spectator great freedom… The spectator feels a little abandoned, he doesn’t know where he is. That will be the main criticism. And yet it is probably Rubber’s greatest asset. The spectator will be contaminated with the film’s freedom.”–producer Gregory Bernard 

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Stephen Spinella, , , Wings Hauser

PLOT: To begin the movie, a policeman hops out of a car trunk and explains that “no reason” is the most powerful element of style. We then see a group of people assembled in the desert; a man in a tie hands out binoculars and they are told to train their eyes on the horizon. Through the glasses they watch a tire come to life and observe as it learns to move and blow up heads, eventually stalking a beautiful young woman who ends up in a motel in the middle of nowhere.
Still from Rubber (2010)
BACKGROUND:

  • Quentin Dupieux records electronic music under the stage name “Mr. Ozio.”
  • Music videos aside, Rubber was Dupieux’s third film, after a 45-minute experiment called Nonfilm (2002) and the French-language flop comedy Steak (2007).
  • Dupieux served as the writer, director, cinematographer, editor, sole cameraman, and co-composer of Rubber.
  • Robert the Tire was rigged to move with a remote controlled motor, moving the cylinder like a hamster in a wheel.
  • Rubber cost only $500,000 to make, but made only about $100,000 in theatrical receipts.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Obviously, it has to be a shot of Robert, the world’s most lovable and expressive killer tire.  We’ll go with the moment when he is standing in front of a Roxane Mesquida mannequin, tentatively rolling towards her, wondering whether it is a real girl or not. You can almost see the furrows forming in his tread as he mulls the situation over.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Well, it is a movie about an animate tire that kills things by making their heads explode telekinetically. That would be enough for most movies, but Rubber rolls that extra mile by adding a metamovie subplot concerning a Greek chorus/focus group in the desert who watch the action through binoculars and comment on it. What emerges from this collision of slasher-movie spoof and Theater of the Absurd is the most clever, original, and hilarious movie mash-up in recent memory.


Original trailer for Rubber

COMMENTS: Why does Rubber start with an extended monologue, full of examples from classic movies, explaining that the film you are about to see is “an homage to Continue reading 151. RUBBER (2010)

LIST CANDIDATE: WRONG (2012)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , William Fichtner, , Alexis Dziena

PLOT: Dolph wakes up one day to find his dog missing; a mysterious Master Chang may have some information on the matter.

Still from Wrong (2012)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: With only two completed films under his belt so far, it’s already becoming obvious that musician-turned-filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is one of those auteurs whose vision is so defiantly offbeat that every movie he makes is likely to be a strong candidate for the list of the weirdest movies ever made. Wrong continues the absurd tradition Dupieux set in his debut Rubber, about a tire serial killer, only this time with even more focus on awkward, surreal comedy.

COMMENTS: Existential sad-sack Dolph has been having a rough time of it lately. It’s bad enough when you’re upset about losing a job at an office where the sprinkler system constantly soaks the workers, but to top it all off his beloved dog Paul has gone missing. His neighbor, a problem jogger going through a crisis of his own, is no help. His French gardener only has more bad news for him; his prize palm tree is suffering from an extremely odd disease. An unintentional romance with the girl who works the phone at the pizza delivery place only interrupts his attempts to telepathically connect with his dog. A detective who doesn’t want to see a picture of the missing pet but is obsessed with finding a stool sample isn’t very promising, but perhaps mystical entrepreneur Master Chang (played with irrational confidence by William Fichtner with a blond ponytail and an accent from nowhere) can help. Shaggy-headed Plotnik is surprisingly good as Dolph, anchoring us on our journey through this absurd world with his sincere bewilderment—although in one of the script’s arch meta-jokes, he accepts things like indoor rain at face value, while being completely confounded by incongruent details of pizza box logos. Even more important to the film’s success is his touchingly pure devotion to his missing mutt, which adds a note of genuineness to what would otherwise be a wry and arbitrary story with no emotional stakes. Although there is an ongoing plot, and each character has a unique arc and adheres to his or her own odd illogic, the movie is very digressive and inevitably feels a like a series of surreal sketch-comedy bits at times, almost as if Dupieux has been telepathically spying on the dreams of Monty Python cast members for ideas to fit into his dognapping script. Dupieux’s universe is like the comic world of , only turned up to 11, and with no philosophical pretensions. Wrong doesn’t arrive with the blindsiding strangeness of Rubber, but it does avoid a sophomore slump for the director, delivering unpredictable yuks along with an unexpected amount of heart. If this is Wrong, who wants to be right?

Dupieux’s upcoming project is titled Wrong Cops;he insists the story is unrelated to this film and the similar nomenclature occurs just because he’s “lazy with titles.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Answering the question ‘what’s weirder than a movie about a sentient car tire on a killing spree?’ Rubber director Quentin Dupieux gives us Wrong, a literal and figurative shaggy-dog story that takes its surreal kinks in stride.”–John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Caleb Moss, who explained it has “an intriguing mixture of deadpan absurdity and an eerie, low-key Lynchian undercurrent to the occurrences through out the film.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)