July 14, 2021
Jean Dujardin is charming, sad, scary and hilarious as a man whose obsession with a jacket takes a murderous turn
Deerskin review – deadpan horror wears its weirdness on its sleeve
When you hear someone say that such-and-such a movie could only have come from the French film industry, that tends to mean some impossibly sophisticated metropolitan comedy of intellectuals having dinner parties and extramarital sex. It doesn’t usually mean a macabre story about a middle-aged man suffering a midlife breakdown resulting in a psychotic obsession with his new deerskin jacket, which he thinks is talking to him and basically encouraging him to kill people. But this is the case with this entirely bizarre, uncompromisingly silly and intensely French horror-comedy from film-maker Quentin Dupieux, who is a DJ known as Mr Oizo and had a huge hit in 1999 with Flat Beat. He also has form with creating weirdo films about inanimate objects attaining strange significance: Rubber, from 2010, was about a rubber tyre that comes to life and (inevitably) kills people.Deerskin, though, wouldn’t be anything without its lead: the strangely poignant figure of Jean Dujardin, who became a world-class player 10 years ago with Michel Hazanavicius’s Oscar-winning silent-movie tribute The Artist: he had also shown he had comedy skills with his appearance in the spy spoof OSS 117 movies. Since then, perhaps because of his indifference to mastering English, Dujardin became a non-export French star, but in Deerskin he attains a strange sort of complexity and maturity. He plays Georges, a preposterous guy who, somehow as innocent as a child, albeit a particularly obnoxious sort of child, hasn’t the first idea of what is happening to him. Having apparently split with his wife, he drives into a remote region of France to buy a deerskin jacket for an absurdly large amount of money from someone who has advertised it online. Despite being patently too small and too short for him, the fringed jacket absolutely delights Georges, and he is thrilled also with the “bonus” that its original owner has thrown in: a digital video camera.
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