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Review: Deerskin (Le daim)

This has to be one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long while! It’s from Quentin Dupieux the writer/director who brought us Rubber. In case you missed that one, it was about a tire named Robert that terrorizes a desert community. This time it all starts with the purchase of a deerskin fringe jacket. And it’s an equally absurd premise that somehow sustains itself for just over an hour, thanks in large part to the central character Georges being played by the marvelous Jean Dujardin (The Artist.)

Georges is having a mid-life crisis. He’s split from his wife. And from reality, it seems. He’s obsessed with buying a fringe jacket and spends thousands of euros to get his hands on it, leaving him nearly penniless. Then he decides that there can be only one jacket in the world. That evening, in the small French town where he’s landed, he meets bartender Denise (Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) and claims to be a filmmaker. (The seller of the jacket threw in a digital camcorder with the purchase.) Turns out she is a budding editor, so the two of them team up. He strings her along for a bit telling her that his producers are in Siberia and can’t be reached at the moment, and she helps finance his endeavor.

Georges’s film is about ridding the world of every jacket except the one he wears and he’s already begun shooting. His initial scenes are of locals declaring to the camera, “I swear never to wear a jacket as long as I live,” as they throw theirs into his trunk and he drives away with them. But it escalates, as does his insanity, as he talks to the jacket, and it talks back. And soon he resorts to violence using the blade from the ceiling fan in his hotel to collect the jackets of everyone he sees. And he documents every bloody moment of it. And Denise, despite seeing the carnage, urges him to keep going to finish their opus.

Is it a dark comedy or a horror film or even an absurdist drama? Perhaps all of the above. It certainly is entertaining in that what the hell is going on here sort of way. And Dujardin commits to the role of psychopath so fully, you can’t look away. Deerskin is definitely not a film for wide audiences. You have to be willing to buy into an insane internal film logic, and if that’s your kind of movie experience, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one.

[Mainstream Chick’s take: I would normally leave this type of film (i.e. weird French cinema) solely in the hands of Arty Chick to watch/review, but strange times call for strange viewing, and I just couldn’t help myself. Blame it on corona-boredom and isolation, and a running time of just 77 minutes. Besides, any black comedy has to be a better distraction than reality, right?  If you ever saw the excellent Ryan Gosling romantic dramedy ‘Lars and the Real Girl,’ this is sort of like that (only not), except the object of obsession is a deerskin jacket rather than a blow-up doll, and the obsessed dude goes way further off the rails – into killer territory. Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin elevates what is, in essence, the type of stripped down and bizarre film that some of my more ambitious film school friends would have made over a long weekend and entered into all sorts of fringe festivals. And probably won. Like Arty Chick said, you have to be willing to go with it. I went with it, but oh deer, I’m still not sure why. -hb]

Look for it streaming from your favorite movie house.

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