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Green Light in the City

Film Review: Deerskin

21 July 21 words: Sebastian Mann

A bearded Jean Dujardin stars as a strange loner fixated on the perfect jacket in this surreal black comedy…

Director: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Adèle Haenel, Jean Dujardin
Running time: 77 minutes

There is something deeply satisfying about a film that feels like the perfect version of what it could be. The latest film from French writer-director Quentin Dupieux – the man behind Rubber, that madcap film about a killer tire – has the makings of an instant cult classic and is an absurdly funny film played almost completely straight. It’s barely over an hour long, brilliantly composed, and maybe the finest comedy of the year so far, in its own bizarre way. 

Somewhere in the French countryside, Georges (Dujardin), an adrift traveller estranged from his wife, arrives at a stranger’s house to buy his vintage jacket. The jacket seems pretty ordinary: certainly it’s a nice piece of clothing, made of 100% deerskin, complete with a fringe and a label in the neck that reads “Made in Italy” – a quality that quite literally knocks Georges off his feet. 

Perhaps the subtly funniest joke in the film is that it doesn’t look like it fits him that well, or at least it’s nothing special. But to him, it’s perfect; so much so that he often rebuffs people with an irreverent “But haven’t you seen my killer style?” The closest reference point would perhaps be one of the Coen Bros’ bloodier black comedies from the Nineties – or even the esoteric weirdness of Yorgos Lanthimos – but it’s wholly unique.

Dujardin, who won the Oscar for Best Actor for his turn in 2011’s homage to silent film, The Artist, is tremendous as the deadpan lead, playing an oddball who you’d struggle to call the film’s hero in any conventional sense. Alone at night in his hotel room, he strikes up a strange relationship with his jacket. In a sort of Smeagol-Gollum way, ‘their’ conversations fuel his obsession with the jacket of his dreams, eventually leading him to realise that it is not enough that he simply wears the nicest jacket in the world, it must become the only jacket left in existence. It’s hard to tell if Georges is possessed by the spirit of this 100% deerskin jacket, or if it’s simply come into his life at the right time.

There’s a richly funny metatextual vein throughout that allows the film to work as well as a commentary on filmmaking as it does a quirky comedy

His nocturnal adventures, as he seeks to rid the world of rival jackets, slowly begin to resemble an avant-garde snuff film, with Dujardin occasionally taking over from the multi-talented Dupieux as cinematographer as he films his evenings on a low-grade digital camera – a complimentary gift from the jacket’s seller. As he wanders around plotting and desperately trying to get money, he meets Denise (Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Adèle Hanael), a local bartender who dreams of being a movie editor. She’s never worked on a big project, but she did once edit Pulp Fiction into order, with less than stellar results.  

There’s a richly funny metatextual vein throughout that allows the film to work as well as a commentary on filmmaking as it does a quirky comedy. But there is no pretension to Dupieux’s writing: it never attempts to make profound commentary nor does it feel like a self-indulgent work aimed at – and perhaps only enjoyed by – filmmakers.

Of course, Deerskin won’t be for everyone. Its sense of humour will be hard to engage with if you’re not on the same wavelength, and its slow pacing and straight-faced absurdity will stretch that 77-minute runtime into infinity. However, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t take itself too seriously and revels in being off-kilter, Deerskin will be a perfect fit. 

Did you know? Quentin Dupieux is perhaps better known to some as the electronic musician, Mr Oizo, having got his start in directing his own music videos.

Deerskin is now in cinemas

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