Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Monuments Men) gives an inspired turn as a man who becomes obsessed with a vintage suede jacket in French writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s brilliantly deadpan and decidedly bonkers new dark comedy Deerskin.
Dupieux who had huge international success in his earlier incarnation as DJ/ Producer Mr Oizo, famed for his 1999 hit Flat Beat, is no stranger to the weird and wonderful world of fetishistic representation on screen. His 2010 film Rubber, a festival circuit favourite that year, told the story of a car tire that comes to life and kills people with its psychic powers.
Arriving at a remote village seemingly out of nowhere, George (Dujardin) pays a small fortune in exchange for what looks like an innocuous second-hand swede jacket, supposedly made in Italy. Soon George and the jacket form an unbreakable bond as he becomes completely entranced by the garment, leading him to increasingly erratic and reckless behaviour.
Now penniless and with nobody to turn to, George finds an unlikely ally in barmaid and aspiring film editor Denise (a fantastic turn by Adèle Haenel) whom he manages to convince that he is a big-shot film director scoping out the area for his latest production. Desperate for a break, Denise agrees to help him edit his film, but instead of paying her, he demands that she finances the project until he’s able to pay her back.
Dupieux offers a laugh-out-loud funny dark comedy which refuses to pull any punches in its depiction of toxic masculinity and male entitlement. At times there is almost a faint suspicion that the joke is, in fact, on us the audience for humouring such an outlandish and utterly preposterous premise. And while there’s never any expectation from us to have any sympathy for George or his actions, there does seem to be a perverse pleasure in wanting us to bear witness to his madness.
Thematically, there are shades of Peter Strickland in the way Dupieux fetishises objects and articles of clothing to make a broader commentary about social discourse. While visually, there is a lo-fi quality about the film which gives it an air of mystery and intrigue throughout.
Jean Dujardin shines in a role which is a far cry from his big Hollywood debut in The Artist. He depicts George as a man with very few scruples or, indeed morals. He is possessed by his love for one thing and one thing only, a desire to feed his own obsession.
At 1h 17min, Deerskin is careful not to overstay its welcome, and interestingly enough, this is what makes it so goddam watchable. It’s sharp, complex and above all genuinely funny.