Quentin Dupieux has never been one to shy away from absurdity, most of his work lavishly bathing in it as if there is nothing strange to be seen. This is the attitude that the film and it’s protagonist absorb: despite the consistent weirdness, both the film and characters never suggest that anything at all could be amiss.
Similar to many past Dupieux plots, Deerskin is far from meaty and is defiant in its ignorance of conventional cinema. Diving into the story from the confusing opening scene, Georges (Jean Dujardin) is compelled to drain his savings account to buy a deerskin jacket from an old man who seems happy to part with it. Despite being slightly short on the asking price, Georges is offered an old camera as a part of the deal.
It should come as no shock then that a man offering a camera with the sale of a deerskin jacket immediately establishes the foundation for an endlessly bizarre tale. The man describes the camera as digital, a modern piece of equipment, though its looks saying otherwise. Georges though is taken aback by the jacket, buying it without a second thought..
As soon as Georges is alone with the jacket, he begins to talk to it in an amusingly matter-of-fact way, as if it is a sane thing that any person may do. This is the first scene in which the deadpan nature of the film becomes very clear, and very funny. As the two converse, it becomes clear that the jacket, or Georges (or both?) has a single, simple wish: to be the only jacket left in the world. I’m sure there is some subtext behind this concept, but I am somehow equally sure that it is simply Dupieux creating his brand of weirdness.
The camera soon becomes an important part of this goal, though Georges doesn’t seem to know why he is filming. The delightfully dark, quirky humour takes a hard turn toward a darker road once violence becomes a key part of what he films. This very dark, humourous atmosphere increases as the film moves forward, but importantly, it never loses sight of its intentionally absurd nature.
Every scene, every line and every bloody, violent action are consistently depicted as mundane and uninteresting.
When Georges meets bartender Denise (Adèle Haenel) who asks about his work as a filmmaker after seeing his camera, they team up as she claims that editing film is a ‘hobby’ of hers. A quick yet amusing anecdote about her editing Pulp Fiction into chronological order is a perfect metaphor for how the film plays out after the two meet. The balance of power, of control, slowly shifts.
Obsessed with the jacket and its demands, the fact that Georges wife seems to be divorcing him, or at the very least has closed their joint account, is barely in his peripheral vision. The real world no longer interests him, as he must eliminate every jacket he can find.
Georges is soon out of money and spins tales to Denise about uncommunicative producers as he asks her for money to continue shooting. This is where the balance of power begins to slowly move, as despite her funding his confused film, he is far from thankful. The partnership weaves a complex web, leading to increasingly strange and dark results.
While Deerskin is certainly no exception to Dupieux’s past cinematic approach, in comparison to some of his work it initially feels a little tame. However, the execution of the often unnerving actions add increased punch. Unsurprisingly, this is amplified by Jean Dujardin’s performance as Georges, his deadpan expression oddly captivating as it contrasts starkly against his near-constant erratic behaviour. It is hard to believe this is the same man who played the lead in Polanski’s recent historical film.
At 74 minutes, the film flies by as the story begins from the opening moments, its sense of humour darkening with the rest of the film and the atmosphere this conjures equates to an experience that only Quentin Dupieux could create. Is there a meaning to its ending, or to the kid whose staring enrages Georges for no rational reason? While the answer to these and other similar questions is most probably an emphatic no, Deerskin will not disappoint fans of Dupieux. The director must be commended for not only remaining steadfast in his approach to film, but also for expanding on this style, adding depth to a seemingly arbitrary, irrational film.
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