Deerskin (3 stars)

Deerskin

LFF 2019: Jean Dujardin is well cast in a bonkers black comedy

Following on from Peter Strickland's marvellously mad In Fabric, another garment sets in motion a series of unfortunate events. This time, however, there's nothing truly sinister or supernatural about the item of clothing in question – a deerskin jacket with copious fringing. At worst, it's unfashionable, ridiculous even, a midlife crisis made manifest, but it's worn in blissful ignorance and with heart-swelling pride by a man who boasts unironically of his 'killer style' even as his sanity hangs by a thread.

We first meet Georges (The Artist's Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin) as he flees his marriage and purchases the designer jacket for a ludicrous, savings-blowing fee from Albert Delpy's Monsieur B. As he settles into an inauspicious hotel in rural France, which he now can't afford, our protagonist begins to unravel.

Through conversations with his coat (yes, that's right) Georges reveals his ambition to be the only jacket-wearer on the planet, a scheme that turns out to be as dastardly as it is daft. Posing unconvincingly as a filmmaker, he dupes the apparently credulous Denise (the wonderful Adèle Haenel) into collaborating with him on the vaguest of projects; she's a waitress and amateur editor who once put Pulp Fiction in order, to her ultimate disappointment.

With its overcast aesthetic and ominous, western-infused score, Deerskin is a finely tuned film that nevertheless cares less about mood than idiosyncratic humour, which it consistently delivers on. Better known for his enjoyably unsubtle brand of comedy (2006's OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies being a good example), Dujardin reins it in here as the awkward and embarrassing Georges but remains very, very funny – his actions generating chuckles well into the movie's more savage scenes.

From maverick filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (the director of cult favourite Rubber, which followed a murderous car tyre), Deerskin boasts a slim runtime of just 77 minutes – the joke simply doesn't have time to wear thin. Despite Dupieux's awareness of the limitations of the concept, it feels like a film without enough to say; a more satirical angle would have given it the substance to match its wit, while a stronger sense of atmosphere and, eventually, terror might have allowed it to be felt more deeply. But those with strong stomachs and twisted senses of humour will have a hoot; adjust your expectations, and it's just over an hour well spent.

Screening on Fri 11 and Sun 13 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. General release from Fri 8 May.

Deerskin

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • France
  • 1h 17min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Quentin Dupieux
  • Written by: Quentin Dupieux
  • Cast: Jean Dujardin, Adèle Haenel, Albert Delpy
  • UK release: 8 May 2020

Georges (Dujardin) flees his marriage and buys the ridiculous titular deerskin jacket, aiming to be the only jacket-wearer on the planet. Dujardin reins in his sometimes unsubtle style to great effect, and Haenel is wonderful as his credulous collaborator Denise. It could do with more substance, but it’s 77 darkly comic…

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