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DEERSKIN (2019) review

April 30, 2020

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written by: Quentin Dupieux
produced by: Mathieu Verhaeghe and Thomas Verhaeghe
directed by: Quentin Dupieux
rated: not rated
runtime: 76 min.
U.S. release date: October 25, 2019 (Chicago International Film Festival) & Gene Siskel Film Center (May 1-7, 2020) 

 

“We put the corpse in room one until the undertaker comes”

 

There’s a fine line between a movie about a man suffering a mid-life crisis and one about a man suffering a mid-life break with reality. The mid-life crisis has been the catalyst many feel-good movies that have delighted audiences the world over. Mid-life breaks with reality, however, tread into much darker water that can inspire a filmmaker to plumb the depths of their imaginations.

French director Quentin Dupieux has a very unique worldview as represented by his past work, such as “Rubber” about a car tire that gains sentience and begins murdering people. He makes one of a kind films that play by many of the rules of certain genre pictures, but often go in directions literally no one else on earth would have thought possible. His latest, “Deerskin,” takes a similarly twisted road to what no one could call an inevitable conclusion.

 

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Jean Dujardin stars as Georges, a man traveling to purchase a deerskin jacket. From the moment you watch Georges attempt to flush his own blazer down a gas station toilet, you understand that you’re along for the ride with someone who is not all there. He buys the jacket—the owner also throws in a free camcorder—and immediately checks into a seaside hotel for a month, tossing his cell phone in the trash after a particularly heated conversation.

Short on cash—despite having dropped over $7500 on the jacket—Georges begins conning anyone and everyone he can to simply survive. Then it becomes something of a game for him, pushing things well past the point of simply getting by in the world. When he tells some women at the hotel bar—including bartender Adèle Haenel—that he’s a filmmaker, the jacket leads them to believe he’s likely shooting porn.

He does indeed begin shooting a film in his room, starring the jacket, with Georges providing both voices in an impromptu Q&A. He soon begins having conversations with the jacket off-camera as well, with the jacket attempting to help him assert himself in the world, and Georges taking all the wrong lessons from that. By letting the jacket simply validate all of his worst impulses, he’s caught in a literal feedback loop that allows him to do whatever he pleases.

The film plays like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver” meets “Little Shop of Horrors” and they have a baby with “Fight Club” with the jacket here being the stand-in for the beaver puppet, Audrey II, and Tyler Durden. That’s a bit reductive, however, as the film is most assuredly its own animal. It is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen, even if you’ve seen those three films enough to understand the connective tissue in that reference.

 

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Perhaps it’s his inherent likability, but you’re willing to go with Dujardin well past the point another actor might have lost the audience. For example, the means by which he acquires a sharp-looking deerskin fedora to accompany his coat will likely lose all but the most ardent Dujardin admirers. Adèle Haenel is also enjoying something of a moment right now, thanks to her work in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” but she’s also quite good here as an ambitious woman unknowingly enabling a madman.

As bits of Georges’ backstory begin to come into focus, they lend his break with reality more credibility, but the extremity of his reaction to all of these circumstances converging seems to be the film’s ultimate point. Although the thing about Dupieux’s work is that one can never be sure that they “got” the point. Others may indeed walk away from this film thinking it’s a scathing indictment of consumer culture or a condemnation of toxic masculinity or a film about the dangers of repressing your inner self.

The brilliance of “Deerskin” is that it’s all of those things and probably a half dozen others I haven’t thought of yet. It is most assuredly not a film for everyone, but those who like things a little stranger than average are sure to find a lot in this film to love.

 

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RATING: ***1/2

 

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In Chicago, You can purchase a “ticket” to stream the film through the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, May 1st and we invite you to review and run coverage timed to this date. Screening links are available. Information and tickets available at Deerskinmovie.com

 

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