A oddly callous, offbeat quirky dark comedy, “Deerskin” emerges as one of the most unpredictable films to be released so far this year, a small, absurdist and well-scripted film that’s grounded in rich subtext and a distinctive vision. It is a film that captures a equitable balance between dark comedy and horror without ever feeling too jarring. Considering the film’s premise, an eccentric, emotionally awkward man who is obsessed with a deerskin jacket who also passes himself off as a “filmmaker,” “Deerskin” dives into the uncharted waters of becoming just another sleazy, creepy, and campy genre movie, but French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Wrong) delivers a sadness that titillates itself from being overly sensationalistic.
As the lead, Oscar winning French actor Jean Dujardin delivers a wry and deadpan performance in a playful and equally menacing role (he’s in almost every scene), again proving that his Oscar win for “The Artist” was not a fluke and that he remains a versatile performer of our times. But the real revelation is that film is so uniquely directed by Dupieux, the creator credited for the equally audacious and absurd “Rubber,” one of the most silly and comical cult movies from the 2010s. Keeping up with the same type of type of folly from the edgy, silly, and vastly amusing “Rubber,” Dupieux registers his new film as a Coen Bros. comedy. By using their style of humor (in the most positive way), it is darkly funny, unpredictable, and sharply crafted throwback to genre movie tropes that also takes you in unexpected directions that you can never fully anticipate. It is a serio-comedy that also echoes Lars von Triers 2018 masterful and controversial dark-comedy “The House That Jack Built,” but much more slight, shorter but indeed more playful.
The quirky, idiosyncratic tone should make the film, which premiered at Cannes, a potential cult and midnight movie, due to its largely hilarious punch-line of a guy obsessed with wearing a deerskin jacket and its horror interludes later in the film as the film unravels from deadpan hilarity to the disturbing. Dupieux’s tale is set in the colder seasons in a small, French town that feels like Minnesota (Coen Bros. feel). The first reel introduces young kids throwing their jackets into a trunk of a vehicle as they all report the lines “I will not wear this jacket again.” It’s quickly established that this film will be unique and offbeat, and from there we are introduced to our protagonist Georges (Dujardin), who we see in the beginning scenes trying to flush away his blazer jacket down a toilet only for the jacket to inevitably clog up the toilet. Georges travels through the rural, mountainous town in France ashe buys a deerskin jacket with his life savings from a resident of the rural town.
Georges is obviously a loner, drifting his way through France, in which he stops into bars and passes himself off to the locals as being a filmmaker, especially to a young bartender, Denis (Adele Haenel), who also holds a deep interest and passion for film editing. Georges is enduring a divorce from his wife, and his bank account is suddenly frozen. It is established that Georges as a fractured man enduring a midlife crises, who uses the jacket and his deception of being a “filmmaker” as a projection for success.
Dupieux cleverly plays with the parody of Geroges playing himself off as film director. Dujadin, with a grey beard and a cowboy hat ferries the traits of Terrence Malick, and Georges even shoots nature with his DV camera in a very Malickian style all in hopes that it comes together in its own spontaneous way. Georges, is clearly a flawed man who is searching for fulfillment and success, he uses the jacket to as almost a shield for his own insecurities and unhappiness, and his pursuits of being a filmmaker are indeed a pipe dream; the previous image of his blazer shows he was probably living a mundane existence trapped in a unhappy job and living in a undesirable marriage that more or less stripped away his masculinity. As the film progresses, or rather regresses the jacket begins to transform himself into a maniac, in which he begins harassing residents of the town to take off their jacket. Eventually the jacket transforms him into a vicious serial killer who murders his victims at night.
What brings Georges balance is Denis, after he hires the beautiful and young aspiring film editor to edit his films he ends up building a unromantic bond and friendship with her. At first Denis is very ecstatic for the task, but she soon realizes that Georges is a fraud once he cons her into giving him money for the production. With filmmaking and storytelling being a passion of hers, she ends up taking full control of the “production” and demands access to his footage. Denis discovers that Georges is indeed recording his killing spree on his tapes, instead of handing the footage over to the authorities, she embraces Georges to get more coverage of the murders. Dupieux begins to make stark commentary on the sensationalism film brings in what is presumed to be a pre-digital era considering the fact there is no cell phones or modern technology that gives the films a 90s settings that examines individuals obsession with mayhem merged with the image. Literally speaking, this makes Denis an accomplice to the murders, yet a step ahead of his audience on a sub-textual level–Dupieux is suggesting the isolation rural area citizens endure–as Denis is a lost soul looking for a path with her passion and talents.
It’s a relief to report that there is no conventional progress or psychobabble to why Georges decides to live the way he does, the kind of exposition we are accustomed to see in so much schlock that is released today. In due course, Dupieux is able to reach a film about the loner, the anti-hero who has been marginalized by society–who eventually gravitates to his toxic primitive nature in which at this point in the film– Georges eventually searches for his own death sentence without even realizing it, and Dupieux conceptually and cleverly pulls it off. If the film is slightly disappointing, it is that it is perhaps a tad too short. A few more exchanges are indeed needed with Georges and Denis, including their creative pursuits that end rather too abruptly and inconclusive, yet the final reel is rendered with a richly drawn and satisfying conclusion that is notable and sophisticated.