Oh deer (pun intended), visionary French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux made another absurd, extra-weird movie! Although I never considered any of Dupieux movies to be truly great, they all provide a unique experience you won’t be able to find anywhere else: Rubber (2010), Wrong (2012) and Wrong Cops (2013) certainly had their flaws, but they’re incredibly unconventional and quite impossible to forget.
Deerskin, now available on VOD, is along the lines of the aforementioned movies: whether you see it as a ridiculous b-movie about a deerskin jacket that controls the actions of the man who wears it or a compelling character study of an egotistical protagonist, this film is truly one of a kind.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Deerskin – plot and utter weirdness
Just to be clear, the plot of Deerskin barely matters and the movie itself treats it as though it’s something rather irrelevant. As always, I will keep this review spoiler-free and I will provide a brief description of the story, even though what’s important in Deerskin is not the story, nor this is a film you can really spoil. That said, Deerskin is a horror-comedy about Georges (Jean Dujardin), a man in the midst of a mid-life identity crisis and a divorce. In search of a new life and look, he ditches his past and goes on a road trip where he comes across a fringed deerskin jacket with influential supernatural powers. He relocates to a quiet French alpine village where he creates a new identity for himself as an independent filmmaker. Goerges happens to meet an aspiring editor with natural production instincts, Denise (Adèle Haenel). The two team up to collaborate on a film inspired by the visionary deerskin jacket, but things get out of hand and take a violent turn.
As you can tell, the plot is ridiculous and absurd, but the movie itself never takes it seriously: this picture is really self-aware, to the point the deerskin jacket actually starts speaking to Georges and tells him what he needs to do to be successful. The constant sense of humour is, however, really dry, in such an odd way that it makes the film almost uncomfortable and eerie to watch. Even when things become violent and desperate for the main character, Deerskin treats them as a joke, with an absurdly detached and matter-of-fact approach that’s both funny and unsettling.
Character study on a lonesome and narcissistic personality
Despite its apparent stupidity and surface-level nonsense, Deerskin is, in fact, a complex and in-depth character study. The subject is Georges, who’s basically just an asshole who loves bullshitting people and making up grandiose stories about himself: he’s a truly inept and no-good person, but the jacket makes him cocky and arrogant enough to get away with telling far-fetched lies to people. It’s hilarious, for example, how he’s able to hire Denise as his editor, but at the same time he makes her pay for everything, including the equipment to shoot his movie.
Georges is, in short, an extremely unlikeable character, but he manages to be very entertaining to watch for two reasons: the first one is that Jean Dujardin is a phenomenal actor, who’s able to deliver a charismatic and compelling performance you can’t take your eyes off. The other one is the relationship with Denise – she’s incredibly naïve and her blind trust in Georges makes him somehow more relatable. Yet, Adèle Haenel’s performance is outstanding, solidifying her as one of the most promising actors working today (she was absolutely fantastic in Portrait of a Lady on Fire).
Matter-of-fact, hilariously dull presentation
The dry sense of humour is paired with visuals that are similarly dull and washed out. This was very intentional, providing Deerskin with a constant grey look that perfectly resembles the kind of comedy in the movie, all the while contrasting with the absurdly quirky characters and situations. Towards the end of Deerskin, there are quite a few sequences that rely on gore and violent mayhem, but they’re also presented in a very dull way, enhanced by the fact that the victims look like rubber dolls: this provides a feeling of confusion, hilarity, creepiness at the same time.
The score, which is very upbeat and resembles 70s French ambience music, counterbalances the visual blandness in a rather unconventional way, giving off a strangely fascinating vibe.
Going overboard and missing the target
The only huge problem with Deerskin is that the comedic element overshadows the horror aspects of the film. In fact, until the last 15-20 minutes of the movie, Deerskin is just an absurd, quirky comedy with very little horror to be found. This causes the movie to rely on cliched horror sound-effects that feel both overly produced and formulaic, which feels distracting in terms of the overall experience.
Although the movie is worth praising for its consistency, I feel like the moments where violence and mayhem ensue could’ve been more impactful and memorable had the gore been more disturbing and had the camera lingered on the attacks for longer. Finally, the very dry and offbeat sense of humour is, onto itself, a stylistic and intentional choice, but it felt misplaced or simply ineffective in certain instances.
Despite me really liking this film and thinking it’s got many undeniable qualities, Deerskin is not an easy film to recommend: whilst purposeful, its presentation is nothing out of the norm, but story, tone, atmosphere and characters are extremely absurdist and strange, which it’s something that can put off more straightforward horror fans.
The same goes for the comedy, which is very unconventional and, thus, not necessarily funny for most viewers. That said, if you seek for an experience you can’t find in any other movie, I would highly suggest watching Deerskin. And, while you’re at it, you might also want to check the entirety of Dupieux’s catalogue.
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