‘Deerskin’ Review: The Director of ‘Rubber’ Made a Film About Being Obsessed with a Jacket [TIFF 2019]

Deerskin review

Have you ever loved a jacket? I mean really loved a jacket? Ruined your life for a coat? Destroyed your marriage and your finances for cool-looking cool-weather clothing? Have the fringes on your outfit caused you to live a fringe existence, evaporating your sanity, and driving you to a rampage? And was your outfit made out of Deerskin?

Director Quentin Dupieux’s new film will certainly speak to anyone with a dash of fashionphilia, or even a simple desire to rid the world out of outerwear. It’s a completely bonkers exercise in lunacy and cold, calculated obsession, all revolving around a really groovy suede outfit.

We first see a bunch of kids throwing coats into the trunk of a car, promising with an earnest declaration that they swear to never wear such clothing for as long as they live. We soon see Georges (The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin) in a typically appalling European bathroom, removing his corduroy blazer and trying to flush it down a seatless toilet. Flooding ensues, but the sense of relief is palpable on Georges’ otherwise passive visage.

He then drives to a local and proffers what seems to be all of his cash (some 7,500 Euro) for a Western-style jacket with an oblique zipper, a stripe of fringed strips, and a pale, tan look that feels somehow both warm and menacing. With near orgasmic glee, Georges tries on the garment, and while slightly ill-fitting, it’s as if he is finally made whole. As a bonus, he’s handed a mini-DV camcorder, which sets him off on an adventure worthy of such attire. 

He soon encounters a young bartender named Denise (Adèle Haenel), exactly the kind of aloof and wise woman one could only dream to encounter in the middle of nowhere France. The two soon connect, finding ways of creating art out of this quest for jacket-led domination.

The film runs a meager 77 minutes, but there’s a sense of focus throughout beyond the overt ridiculousness of the whole affair, as if not a frame is wasted or a moment overstayed. Dujardin is perfect in the role, his goofy and laconic air a far cry from his often smoldering leading-man takes. It’s almost believable that this is the kind of thing that would occur when a man of his stature would be felled by fate, pushed to the margins where he finds himself driven by a desire to swing at enemies he heretofore never knew to bother with.

You’re unlikely to find a more droll look at obsession and lunacy than Deerskin, a film that’s playfully ridiculous yet startlingly effective at drawing out what easily could be a small gag. At every point, it makes sense how we got there, how each incremental move becomes more and more manic – a testament to a filmmaker unafraid to be very serious about being very silly.

You won’t find any film like Deerskin, and its originality and oddness is very much part of its charm. Yet this isn’t something that simply relies on shock or its surrealist air, but on how the balance between being achingly real while simultaneously implausible makes for a head-shaking, gobsmacking good time.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

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