Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Deerskin (Le Dain)

Jean Dujardin stars in this absurdist (sort of) comedic-horror (sort of) from one-man-filmmaking-machine Quentin Dupieux, and he’s pretty good, considering that even he occasionally seems unsure what kind of movie he’s actually in.

Dujardin (who struggled to properly make it in America after surprisingly winning the Oscar for 2011’s The Artist) wanders through the narrative and, although often doing not much at all, proves quite unnerving as we wait for him to do something freaky. And wait.

Writer, director and sole cinematographer and editor Dupieux (a.k.a. ‘Mr. Oizo’, and a muso and DJ too) had a minor cult hit with Rubber (essentially the tale of a killer car tire) 10 years ago, but since then he’s painted himself into a corner with infuriating oddballers like Wrong and Reality. Here he has a serious actor like Jean on board but still cares little for audience expectations or genre or anything much, come to that, meaning that this is an authentically love-it-or-loathe-it mini-epic.

Dujardin’s Georges is introduced driving grimly down a French freeway and, after shoving his old coat down a service station toilet, he buys a supposedly one-of-a-kind deerskin jacket from Monsieur B. (a quick cameo by Albert Delpy, Julie’s Dad, and looking like a Gallic Terry Gilliam), who throws an old video camera into the deal. It becomes apparent that Georges has recently and nastily been divorced, and that he’s obviously trying to start some kind of new life, and he initially chooses to do so at a rundown B&B in some unnamed alpine village.

On a whim, Georges decides to make a movie with help from local Denise (Adèle Haenel from Portrait Of A Lady On Fire), who says that she’s an aspiring editor and has previously put Pulp Fiction “into the right order”. The film will be about the coolly-tasseled coat and how all other coats are hopelessly inferior, and Georges grows obsessed with the thing, talking to it and seemingly doing its bidding as director Dupieux finally, if arbitrarily, decides that this is a horror movie, and Janko Nilovic’s keyboard-heavy musical score plinks away in familiarly Eyes Wide Shut style.

For a pic so vague and random, this is also that rare example of a film (especially a French film) that’s too short (underlong?) at 77 minutes, several of which are end credits. And, therefore, it at times feels like an arty anecdote or an elongated Twilight Zone episode, although Dujardin does try hard to make it feel like you’re watching, you know, an actual movie.

And, it must be said, he does look great in that jacket.

Reviewer Rating

Deerskin (MA) is in cinemas from 6 August

DM Bradley

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