Deerskin (Le Daim), 2019.
Directed by Quentin Dupieux.
Starring Jean Dujardin and Adele Haenel.
In this bizarre comedy-horror, a middle-aged man spends all his savings on a deerskin jacket and heads out to live in a rural mountain village. His unsettling obsession with his new purchase leads him to take drastic action to ensure it is the only jacket left in the world.
Although many film directors attempt to stand out from the crowd with a unique aesthetic, very few actually succeed in having their touch instantly recognised and celebrated. With his new film, Deerskin, French director Quentin Dupieux has finally executed his own offbeat style to near-perfection. Over the years, he has honed this dark, surreal humour in films such as killer tyre B-movie Rubber (2010), and the intermittently brilliant Wrong (2012). With Deerskin, the years of development have paid off, for it is his best film yet, and is quite frankly, brilliant.
It certainly helps that he has two A-grade actors at his disposable. Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin is protagonist Georges, an unusual man who has spent all of his money on an old deerskin jacket and moved into a hotel in a small mountain village. New French star Adèle Haenel’s barmaid, Denise, works at the deserted local pub and befriends Georges. She dreams of being a film editor, whilst he has a much stranger dream. Georges is a little too attached to his jacket and in fact wishes it to be the only jacket in the world. He sets out on a, as you can probably imagine, bizarre quest to make this dream a reality. He convinces Denise that he is making a film that she can edit, therefore dragging her into his strange world.
Dujardin delivers one of his best performances of late with a completely committed, completely brilliant comedic turn as the anti-hero of the piece. Dujardin knows exactly when to lean completely into the unusual comedy and he appears to be relishing the opportunity of such a role. Adele Haenel is often the straight woman to Dujardin’s Georges and his antics, but is also given her fair share of wacky comedic moments. She is certainly a match for Dujardin as Denise gets entangled more and more in his strange activities. Haenel continues to prove her talent in all genres, adding this dark comedy to stellar work in this year’s Cannes’ hit, romantic drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
As with a lot of Dupieux’s work it may seem a little too weird to work. In the past, this may have been true, with his attempts never being wholly successful. Here though the stars appear to have aligned. Despite the premise, Dupieux makes sure that unlike certain of his previous movies, which fell too far into the realm of surrealism and quirkiness to be fully enjoyable or indeed comprehensible, Deerskin is perfectly balanced. It works exceptionally well dancing its way between black comedy and horror with Dujardin’s electric performance holding it together.
Deerskin feels like the sort of film that would fall at the final hurdle. For with such out-there ideas, filmmakers are so often incapable of finding a fitting ending for their tale. To his credit, Dupieux has crafted a fantastically dark ending that makes you want to settle in again for another viewing straight away, to catch hints perhaps missed the first time around. It is also the rare film that ends at the perfect time. There’s only so far that an idea like this can be stretched, and Deerskin certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. None of the film’s 88 minutes feel at all wasted, and so it hits like the urgent bolt of dark comedy that you needed.
The premise for Deerskin alone screams midnight screening. It is a film that lives up to that and so much more, and it is almost definitely destined for cult status. It may actually be Dupieux’s most accessible film to date, or at least the easiest to comprehend. Certainly it is his best film so far. Deerskin is a wonderfully crafted oddity.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★