AFI Fest 2019: Deerskin, by David Bax
Quentin Dupieux has established a reputation for creating his own reality–or his own Reality (2014). In many ways, that holds true for his newest, Deerskin. But the movie’s biggest surprise (and the reason for its success) is how disturbingly relatable the germ of its concept is. Retail therapy is not an uncommon practice, so when Georges (Jean Dujardin), whom we gather is recently separated from his wife, dotes on a newly purchased vintage deerskin jacket like it’s a pet (he actually tells the jacket, “I’m your new owner”), we can almost imagine ourselves feeling the same way about a cherished new object that gives us hope amid life’s turmoil. Hopefully none of us will find ourselves taking the same path George does after that point but the seed of sympathy goes a long way to making him, and Deerskin, so endearing.
After buying the jacket in the opening scene, Georges moves into a hotel in a small town and, as his only other possession of note is a video camera, starts telling people he’s a filmmaker. When he meets bartender and aspiring editor Denise (Adèle Haenel), she agrees to help him make his movie, which increasingly comes to be “directed” by the jacket itself as it starts speaking to Georges and telling him to do things that are, to say the least, unsavory.
So, obviously, the parts of Deerskin that began as so relatable quickly become wildly exaggerated. Georges cares about literally nothing else in the world but his jacket. Increasingly, he appears to also know about nothing else, as routine social and economic interactions seem to befuddle him.
To be fair to Georges , it is a very cool jacket, with a buckle at the waistline and a line of fringe that runs along each sleeve and connects in the back. He looks great in it and the other deerskin items and accessories he accumulates over the course of the film–hat, pants, gloves–complement the jacket nicely.
By the end, Georges’ head-to-toe deerskin look is ridiculous, surprisingly flattering and, most importantly, iconographic. As the jacket’s commands turn Georges into a murderer multiple times over, it’s as if we’re watching one of the great horror movie slasher villains being born. His silhouette and color palette make him a singular and immediately recognizable presence. What he doesn’t seem to realize, though, is that by covering himself in deerskin, he is becoming the hunted just as much as the hunter.