Deerskin – VIFF 2019 Review

Georges has a real killer look in writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s latest film, a batshit-beyond-all-reason black comedy/character piece called Deerskin. Dupieux, the deranged genius behind such wonderfully weird films as the absurdist horror tale Rubber (2010), and the irreverent comic mystery Wrong (2012) is no stranger to bizarre backroads and crackpot detours into the ludicrously far-out and terminally fucked-up. And based on such curious criteria as this it’s possible that Deerskin is some kind of eccentric chef d’oeuvre.

Starring French luminaries Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Adèle Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Deerskin takes what’s essentially one pretty good gag, and milks it for everything it’s worth and with deliriously rolling results.

Georges (Dujarin) is a graying middle-aged man who has recently walked away from a ruined marriage and, in a disordered emotional state, acquired a tasseled deerskin jacket for a bargain 8,000 euros (give or take a few hundred euros). From that point on Georges obsession with the buckskin jacket grows darker and more dangerous as does his alienation from a society clothed in inadequacy, or so Georges discussions with his new coat theorizes. For his jacket wants to be the only one in the world, and Georges the only one fit to wear it.

Bent on realizing this dream, to rid the world of all jackets but his, Georges dupes an affable bartender named Denise (Haenel) into joining his cause, under the auspices that it’s for a film he’s making. Denise, who has her own aspirations as an editor, is happy to get into cahoots with Georges, even if his only worldly possessions appear to be his venerated jacket, his tin lizzie, and an old digital video camera.

Surprisingly, when things take a nasty and blood-flecked corner, Denise is oddly even more compelled to their strange ill-starred destiny.

At a nimble and skilled 77 minute runtime Deerskin doesn’t waste a second. Consistently strange and delightfully droll, there’s something utterly admirable about Georges self-possession given his, let’s say anvil chorus. And Dujarin deserves plaudits for his self-effacing and gelastic performance. He’s something like a French Travis Bickle and Barton Fink with a stitch of Norman Bates and though his inevitable slide into the abyss is a pitiable one, it’s a knee-slapping one.

Sure to annoy as many people as it enamors, Deerskin is a confidently stylish and thoroughly diverting achievement from one of the most curious contemporary filmmakers around. To miss it might be a fatal mistake.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.