From Hepburn’s sleek Givenchy dress and oversized shades to Dean’s sexy, high collar red jacket, cinema has never lacked iconic fashion moments. Writer-director Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin might fall short of these legacies, but it teaches us something else; conviction to one’s look might matter more. Georges’ (Jean Dujardin) fierce dedication to his deerskin jacket means that he is willing to eliminate all other jackets. Gory comedy Deerskin delivers on this farcical premise in a fittingly turbulent style.
Georges has traveled many miles to purchase a 100% real deerskin jacket (for the hefty price of €7500 from a very pleased seller, who also threw in a free video recorder). There is no question as to whether the trip and price were worth it. He admires himself in the mirror as he dons his new prized possession, only able to respond in four-letter expletives at how extraordinary he thinks he looks — he might even be turned on by his new appearance.
Georges’ journey brings him in contact with a bartender, Denise (Adèle Haenel of BPM and Portrait of a Lady on Fire), who happens to be an amateur editor; she once re-cut Pulp Fiction only to realize that it sucked when placed in chronological order. With the aid of his new camera, Georges dupes Denise into believing he is a bigshot filmmaker, currently without his team because they are filming important scenes in Siberia. Together they make an unlikely film crew. While Georges films local people dumping their coats into the boot of his car and exclaiming “I swear never to wear a jacket as long as I live”, it is up to Denise to edit his footage into a coherent state.
Georges’ obsession is continuously fed, slowly blossoming defective fruit and fatal thorns. At first, it is quaint and harmless. He deludedly believes his jacket is the subject of strangers’ conversations, and then he begins having conversations with the jacket. Eventually, he sees a necessity in violent actions in order to realize his ambitions; not all of the local residents submit to Georges’ requests so willingly.
The darker tones, however, are always wrapped in a comedic coat. Deerskin relies much more on timing and physical comedy than funny dialogue. As the story progresses, Georges’ begins to acquire more and more deerskin garments to match his jacket, which at one point involves stealing from a corpse. By the end, he is wearing more deerskin than an actual deer.
As the determined oaf, Oscar-winner Dujardin is endearing and ridiculous. And Haenel deftly balances his presence with a mixture of cautious enthusiasm and deceptive naivety. But Deerskin gives the impression that the jokes are only amusing the first time around and, importantly, in the company of others. Deerskin might end up being a one time watch for most audiences but its eerie score and occasionally thrilling elements indicate that this could become a cult classic in the years to come.