Wait. What’s going on here? We seem to be experiencing a minor spurt of Francophone films about oddballs who become dangerously obsessed with physical objects. A week after the lovely Jumbo — in which a woman fell for a fairground attraction — cinemas open their doors to Quentin Dupieux’s even better Deerskin. This time round a handsome rogue falls head-over-heels with a deerskin jacket. If clothes maketh the man this piece of clothing has a great deal to answer for.
The perplexing, darkly funny Deerskin has, in fact, been waiting release since the 2019 Cannes film festival. So we shouldn't draw too many conclusions about reflections of the zeitgeist. Jean Dujardin is somewhat unfairly seen as a freak winner of the Oscar, but, in films such as The Connection and Wolf of Wall Street, he has subsequently demonstrated that his award for The Artist honoured an actor of some versatility. Here he confirms that he is happy to use his charm and good looks to subversive ends.
Georges leaves his home, falls for the classic jacket — one of those tasselled affairs that used to wrap the shoulders of passing Dr Hook bassists — and, after forking out close to €8,000 for the thing, makes his way to a remote mountain village. At the bar of his hotel, he bumps into a waitress named Denise (the increasingly essential Adèle Haenel) and spins a yarn about being a filmmaker. An amateur editor, Denise expresses some interest and gets drawn into his developing obsession.
There could be something here about how men — particularly those in middle age — develop pathetic enthusiasms for ill-advised sartorial experiments. Some go so far as leather jeans. Others stop at biker jackets. None look quite so foolish as those who plump for the full fedora (do they think themselves Bogart or Indiana Jones?).
Georges’ interest in the ill-fitting garment is, however, stranger than that. He doesn’t just admire himself in the mirror; he carries on aggressive conversations with the unresponsive jacket. As time moves on we get the sense that we are here dealing with a full-on lunatic.
Dupieux is flogging no message. He’s inviting us to take risks on a ride that is as unpredictable as it is spooky. And it’s all done in under 80 minutes. There is nothing else like it out there.
In cinemas and streaming from July 16th