Montreal Nouveau 2019 Review: DEERSKIN, Killer Style in a Killer Jacket
Georges (Jean Dujardin) is a man on a mission. After driving across what must be the length of France (and dumping his courdoroy jacket in a gas station toilet along the way - literally the toilet), he comes to the house of an old man somewhere in the Pyrenees. There, the man sells him a vintage jacket made of 100% deerskin, with all its fringe intact. So precious is this article of clothing to Georges, that he pays almost €7600 for it, almost his entire life savings (but hey, the old man throws in a digital camera as a bonus).
Perplexing? Insane? Hilarious? Yes, Georges' behaviour is all of these things, as is his story, as told in Quentin Dupieux's latest film Deerskin. Running from absurd comedy to dark horror, Deerskin is a fascinating and at times mind-boggling look at obsession, control, and inventiveness, and a mind that has entered a focused and determined madness.
For Georges, he now has 'the killer style'. But as his wife points out, he's also off the rails, and she promptly blocks their joint account, leaving him (having spent all his money on his beloved jacket) stuck and penniless in a small mountain town. He is only able to secure a hotel room with his wedding ring as guarantee, and later drowning his sorrows at the local bar, he meets bartender Denise (Adele Haenel). He claims to be a filmmaker in town working on his latest project, and Denis, it turns out, is an amateur editor looking for a big break. For some insane reason, not only does she agree to help Georges with his film, she buys his lie about the films' 'investors' delay, so she gives him some cash.
So Georges, having no idea what he's doing, starts to make a film. But then, this wraps nicely into his obsession with, and possession by, this jacket. His 'killer style' and its documentation is now his only focus; for the jacket now seems to be talking to him, and this jacket wants to be the only jacket in the world, and what can Georges do but grant this odd wish from his prized treasure? This is when things start to go off the rails for Georges, as he realizes the lengths he must go to to indeed be the only person in the world with a jacket.
What has motivated Georges to this obsession with this particular coat, ans subsequent attire made from deerskin, is unknown, and irrelevant. Dujardins, who many viewers may only be familiar with from The Artist and the OSS films, is completely immersed in this role, playing Georges with a single-minded naiveté that only comes from someone who has no idea how insane he or his ideas are, and because of that somehow manages to pull off the absurdily impossible. We may laugh at Denise for falling for Georges' obvious lies and scams, but Haenel plays her as a long-term thinker, and perhaps not as blind as we might think.
Of course, Dupieux is arguably examining not only a twisted masculine identity that comes with power and control, but the very act of filmmaking, and how even if one's done it a hundred times, one still doesn't know what one is doing. Deerskin might be a very absurd, very black comedy, but like most black comedies, there are more than a few kernals of truth at the core, in this case about the nature of obsession, the bravado of ignorance, and the folly of blind determination.