DEERSKIN – movie review

DEERSKIN (Le daim)
Greenwich Entertainment
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Jean Duojardin, Adèle Haenel, Albert Delpy, Coralie Russier, Laurent Nicolas, Marie Bunel, Pierre Gommé
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/14/20
Opens: May 1, 2020

Melbourne International Film Festival 2019 Review – Deerskin

Near the opening of “Deerskin,” Georges (Jean Dujardin) checks into a cheap motel in a one-horse town asking to stay for one month because he wants to be alone. But Georges may have been alone before the check-in but he is not a single person any more. He had purchased a deerskin jacket, willing to buy it with a dated movie camera thrown in, because he considers it the most beautiful jacket in France. In fact to prove he is not alone, when he is in the motel room, he talks to the jacket, and lo, the jacket talks back in Georges’s own voice. So this is not a film so bizarre that the writer-director wants you to think that the jacket is really alive, but it’s bizarre enough. And no wonder. Its regisseur, Quentin Dupieux, is credited with “Réalité,” about a director who wants to hire a person who can deliver a groan worthy of an Oscar. Even more off the beaten track, literally, his “Rubber” follows the exploits of a homicidal tire obsessed with a mysterious woman in the desert.

For his part Jean Dujardin, whom you may remember from the boldly original silent film “The Artist” in which he takes second billing to a Jack Russell Terrier, is virtually unrecognizable under his thick beard and some weight he either put on since “The Artist” or had the make-up person bulk him up artificially. His character Georges is convinced by his deerskin jacket that the article of clothing should be the only one in existence; meaning, not just the only deerskin in existence but the only jacket. To fulfill the jacket’s plan he sets out to film a movie with his newly bought camera, offering euros to several people if they would remove their jackets and put them into his car trunk. When they do so, he takes off. Later it becomes difficult to con people into the donations, and that’s where the film turns to dark comedy.

The principal attraction of “Deerskin” is the relationship between Georges and Denise (Adèle Haenel)—whom movie buffs will quickly recall for her startling lesbian role in “Portrait of a Woman on Fire.” Denise serves in a bar with only one or two customers but her passion is to edit movies. (That’s a new one: not a desire to act or direct!) Georges picks up on this, hires her as an editor, gets her to cough up money which she withdraws from an ATM. She proceeds to put his spontaneous film takes into an editing machine, and before you know it, her obsession with cutting film matches Georges’ preoccupation with his jacket.

Dupieux knows not to overstay his welcome as the film has barely enough material for a short. Denise congratulates herself with an interpretation of the jacket as “we all hide behind a shell,” which Dupieux may have thrown in to satirize the predilection of serious moviegoers to find meaning where symbolism does not exist. Look, the guy is simply obsessed with a deerskin jacket which, Georges thinks, feels anger that other jackets exist in France. This is a kooky picture, but not difficult or “artsy.” It exists largely to have us feast on the talents of the always imposing Dujardin.

77 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

PIG (Khook) – movie review

PIG (Khook)
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net by: Harvey Karten
Director: Mani Haghighi
Screenwriter: Mani Haghighi
Cast: Hasan Majuni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi, Parinaz Izadyar, Mina Jafarzadeh
Screened at: Critics’ Link, NYC, 1/6/19
Opens: January 11, 2019 at Iranian Film Festival in NY: at IFC Center, 323 6th Avenue

Pig (2018 film).jpg

How do you like your Iranian movies? Do you favor meditative ones in the Ingmar Bergman style with a focus on the regrets of old age? Then Bahman Farmanara’s “Tale of the Sea” is your glass of sharbat. If instead you prefer absurdist dark comedy, Coen Brothers’ fashion? Then go for “Pig.” “Pig,” or “Khook” as the picture is known in Farsi, is a hallucinatory look at the high-end folks of Tehran, people who visit museums that show modern art and those whom Trump supporters would consider elitist. These are the well-to-do, BMW-owning artists, in this case represented by Hasan Kasmai (Hasan Majuni), a filmmaker who was blacklisted by the government. People in the know about global politics will pick up that Kasmai stands in for the real-life Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker who was unable to get a job because the politicians did not like his alleged propaganda against the government and who in 2011 smuggled a video out to the Cannes Festival by hiding the flash drive inside a cake.

Writer-director Mani Haghighi, whose “Men at Work” is an allegorical take on four middle-aged men on a ski trip, continues his wont to hide political commentary in a similar allegorical form, this time gives us “Pig,” a barb against the narcissism of artists, a trait that we in the U.S. know well given the current administration in the White House.

To get his message across, Haghighi employs the darkly comic theme of murder, wherein a killer decapitates artists before or after cutting off their heads. One filmmaker, the blacklisted Hasan Kasmai, feels slighted that he still keeps his head, wondering whether he is really in the top tier of his profession if he is being ignored by the murderer. Perhaps Haghighi is saying that some high-up officials are themselves being headless, persecuting those with whom they disagree.

“Pig” can be considered a horror film only as a stretch. When we see a few heads on the curbside and in the morgue with missing torsos, we are not in the company of filmmakers like Wes Craven and Rob Zombie who give their largely teen base the blood and guts that they eagerly lap up. When Hasan, the film’s principal subject, is not lamenting the injunction on his film making, using his time to shoot commercials, he is having an affair with leading lady Shiva (Leila Hatami). But Shiva, tired of being without employment because of the ban on her lover and director’s art, goes over to filmmaker Saidi (Ali Mosoffa) to Hasan’s displeasure.

Still, Hasan is pursued, even stalked for roles in movies yet to come, by Annie (Parinaz Izadyar). At the same time Hasan is himself babied by his rifle-toting mother, who will play a major role toward the story’s conclusion. Hip audience members will recall Chekhov’s insight that a gun shown in Act I will be used in Act III.

Among the visual candy on hand is an extended insecticide commercial, the all-female crew of bugs dressed in red with yellow boots, ultimately to be killed off by a huge, misty cloud. A dig at social media, in this case Instagram (Iran does not allow Facebook), sets Hasan up as the murderer by capturing him in scenes that could lead to his prosecution. Despite the thematic importance of this film, Hasan Majuni in the lead role becomes tiresome with a half hour to go. He is unlikable; an obese, temper-tantrum baby wearing silly T-shirts including one advertising Black Sabbath, an English rock group named after Mario Bava’s 1963 film of the same name.

There’s an elephant in the room. We in the U.S., told repeatedly that Iran is an authoritarian state that denies freedom to women and would not tolerate a movie critical of its repressive laws, may be surprised to note that men and women who are not related are seen chatting freely, driving cars, and observing so-called corrupt abstract art which was banned by totalitarian governments like Germany in the thirties and the Soviet Union under communism.

“Pig” is among the films exhibited beginning Jan. 10, 2019 in New York, enjoying the first Iranian Festival contributions this year. Shot on location in Tehran with sharp images by Mahmoud Kalari, the picture is in Farsi with English subtitles.

108 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B