UPDATE: Deerskin will be released nationwide in the United Kingdom on July 16th 2021
The ability of filmmakers to laugh at their own craft is a precious and valuable thing. Especially when combined with stories that fly in the face of reality while played with deadpan sincerity, Quentin Dupieux’ latest offering does just that with a killer black comedy about a Deerskin jacket, psychosis and a rural snuff movie. Of course, anyone familiar with Dupieux and his work should not entirely be surprised by these key themes. After all, this is the director who brought us Rubber, the story of a homicidal car tire, Flat Eric and the surreal comedy Wrong. But unlike many of his earlier films, Deerskin feels more refined in its comedic qualities. The deadpan delivery and comic book horror creating a truly hilarious slice of cinema.
Deerskin opens with George (Jean Dujardin), leaving his old life behind him by gleefully dispensing with his current coat down a service station toilet before meeting with an older man selling a vintage deerskin jacket. At first sight, George is besotted by the hideous western-style garment, handing over a considerable amount of money to purchase the jacket. His new coat only emboldening his self-image despite being too small and verging on the bizarre. However, George is happy as he drives on to his new future, his expensive purchase adorning his shoulders.
Finding himself in a small rural town, George takes up residence in a rundown hotel. Here, he pretends to be a filmmaker, coaxing a young barmaid and aspiring editor Denise (Adèle Haenel) into his imaginary world with no penny to his name. His newfound love of his deerskin jacket becoming increasingly sinister as he begins to converse with it. A conversation that leads both George and his Jacket to an agreement, ridding the world of all other coats and jackets, ‘One jacket to rule them all’ ringing out as George hatches his plan. From here on in, Deerskin descends a path of dark and delicious comedy as the jacket consumes George’s actions. The whole town becoming part of his sinister amateur filmmaking process.
Much of the joy of Deerskin comes from the deadpan delivery of the madness on screen. With Jean Dujardin’s George gloriously serious at all times, utterly convinced by his own actions. At the same time, Adele Haenel’s barmaid plays along with the pathological lying and delusions at the heart of George’s behaviour. The films horror and comedy dovetailing to create a film that never allows itself to become bogged down in one specific genre. Playfully bouncing from laugh out loud comedy to slasher horror with ease in creating a beautiful parody on the lure and art of the filmmaking process.
Deerskin carries a short 77 minute run time, but this perfectly matches the chaotic story. As one man, one camera, and a deerskin jacket slowly descend into madness. Its final scenes beautifully set up earlier in the film. But I am certainly not about to ruin the end. Or give you further insight into this utterly delightful, bonkers and brilliant piece of dark comedy.
Deerskin is a film designed to speak for itself, and while some will lap up its humour and horror, others will struggle to adapt to the world Dupieux creates. In a similar fashion to Peter Strickland’s 2019 In Fabric, Deerskin is unique, inventive and darkly delicious throughout.