Shot in 2019 and the winner of several prestigious awards, Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin is a self-consciously weird film about a middle-aged man’s nervous breakdown and his attempts to reinvent himself as a ‘film maker.’
Bleakly surreal and sometimes just plain bonkers, it seems to be trying to make a point about the filmmaking process itself but, if that’s true, it’s one that virtually drips with a massive dose of self-loathing. To follow Dupieux’s logic, filmmaking is a sham, a perfect hiding place for the untalented. There are always financiers eager to horn in on somebody else’s efforts and the general public are happy to do just about anything so long as there’s a camera pointed at them. Which is all pretty dispiriting when you think about it.
Georges (Jean Dujardin) runs out on his marriage, puts his sports jacket down the nearest toilet and buys himself a fringed deerskin affair for what seems a ludicrous amount of money. The seller of the jacket (probably feeling guilty) gifts him a digital video camera. Georges then drives to a remote, mountainous location somewhere in France and checks into a dingy hotel, where he sets about trying to achieve a very unusual obsession.
He wants to be the only person in the world allowed to wear a jacket.
He also decides to film himself while he’s attempting to make that odd ambition a reality. His wife (quite sensibly) decides to block his bank account, so Georges talks receptive local barmaid, Denise (Adèle Haenel, last seen by B & B in the mesmerising Portrait of a Lady on Fire), into financing his efforts and, when he learns she is also obsessed with editing, even takes her on as his partner/producer.
When Denise urges him to provide her with more raw footage, Georges’ film sequences become increasingly violent, but the ensuing carnage is as throwaway as the rest of what’s going on here, played pretty much for laughs – and the problem is that I feel distanced from what’s happening on the screen and I don’t really care about any of the two-dimensional characters.
Still, at one hour and seventeen minutes, Deerskin is slight enough to chug along to its underwhelming conclusion without losing too much steam. But with all those awards under its belt, I can’t help wondering if this isn’t a case of The Emperor’s New Fringed Jacket.