DEERSKIN

★★★★

HILARIOUS AND HORRIFIC

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
2nd August 2020

When he first started making films in 2002, Quentin Dupieux was better known for producing dance music under the name Mr Oizo, but his commitment to cinema proved to be more than mere hobbyism. Dupieux - who writes, shoots, edits, and scores his own movies - knows what he's doing, even if his films suggest that he isn't motivated by anything more than a hankering to make something weird, creepy and funny.

I can't claim to have watched his entire filmography but I did really like 'Rubber', a story about a sentient killer tire with telepathic powers rolled around the desert, exploding craniums. The idea of a random object turning evil was darkly hilarious, and the actual movie ends up being meta in a way that felt satisfying, too. 'Wrong' might be my favourite of Dupieux's work - the surreal, absurdist humour is charming in that one.

In his latest, 'Deerskin', a man named Georges (Academy Award-winner Jean Dujardin, 'The Artist', who is brilliant) blows his life savings on a deerskin jacket in a small French town. There he pretends to be a powerful film executive creating a new movie in the area (his crew are in Siberia), befriending a bartender (Adèle Haenel, 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire') who longs to be a professional film editor. I'm reluctant to explain the plot beyond that, but if you're familiar with Dupieux's oeuvre, you can imagine things go a bit crazy.

'DEERSKIN' TRAILER

Okay, I'll explain a little bit of it: Georges gets advice from his jacket, which communicates to him through an infrequent disembodied voiceover. This advice is particularly jacket-centric. While the real world certainly has its share of dumber voices that people cling to, the fact that Georges blindly follows the jacket's commands does not culminate in what would be considered socially acceptable results. Georges' jacket is a jealous jacket, decreeing what any obsessive power-hungry piece of questionable high-end outerwear would decree: destroy all other jackets. A killing spree with a weaponised ceiling fan blade ensues.

A breezy 77 minutes, 'Deerskin' wastes no time getting the simple but outlandish plot moving. Dujardin plays Georges as a quiet loner, while Haenel's bartender is excited to just be a part of something and jumps at the chance to help George's strange compulsion. The relationship between Dujardin and Haenel plays out a lot like Rainn Wilson and Elle Page's duo in James Gunn's 'Super' - the guy goes through a serious mental unravelling, and her enthusiasm more or less pushes him to go even more over the edge. Dujardin's performance shows no signs of irony; there's no smirking. Dupieux's direction treats the narrative at face value, never indulging in stylistic excess.

Georges gets advice from his jacket, which communicates to him through an infrequent disembodied voiceover. This advice is particularly jacket-centric.

There's a constant shifting of tone, with a very unsettling scene involving a hotel receptionist who has committed suicide and Georges' wedding ring, and the ending could be described as Monty Python-esque (in a good way). Like all of Dupieux's work, 'Deerskin' feels like the plot of a short film stretched to feature length, doesn't overstay its welcome or overcomplicate things, and is frequently hilarious.

If you only have time to watch one bizarre French horror-comedy about a guy and the jacket that seems to hold an extreme power over his mind, 'Deerskin' is it.

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