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Jean Dujardin Anchors The Oddity That Is “Deerskin”

It would be a massive understatement to call the works of filmmaker Quentin Dupieux “weird.” After all, this is the man who made a movie about a malevolent tire as his big breakthrough. Rubber certainly put him on the map, but interestingly, his latest film Deerskin is what may finally endear him to a larger crowd. To be sure, this is still a very odd flick, but it’s powered by a strong lead performance, a low-key charm, and a slow burn to its unusual nature. This won’t be for everyone, but in terms of Dupieux, it’s going to be for more people than ever before.

The film is a black comedy that slowly veers into horror territory. Georges (Jean Dujardin) its recently divorced and on a long road trip to a small French alpine village. Along the way, he stops and pays a man (Albert Delpy) a ton of money for a genuine deerskin jacket, with a digital video camera thrown in as a bonus for Georges. Almost immediately, the jacket begins to exert an unusual influence on him. Taking up shop in the hotel of the sleepy town, he begins filming random things. Pretending to be a filmmaker, he becomes friends with local bartender Denise (Adèle Haenel), who aspires to be a film editor. Georges begins to give Denise his tapes to edit, “hiring” her to work on his movie. The disturbing footage (which I’ll save for you to discover) thrills her, instead of driving her away. Then, things get really weird. Dupieux writes and directs, with supporting work from Pierre Gomme, Laurent Nicolas, Coralie Russier, and more. Janko Nilovic provides the music, while Dupieux himself handles the cinematography, as well as the editing.

Jean Dujardin is really terrific in this movie, selling every weird bit of it. Adèle Haenel is excellent too in her supporting role, but this is largely the Dujardin show. He anchors the oddness on screen, especially when things go from largely comedic and offbeat to disturbing and even horrific. Writer/director Quentin Dupieux wisely cast him, since without a performance like this, you might end up checking out midway through. Don’t sleep on Haenel, either, as her more grounded turn goes to some very surprising places. By the time the end credits roll, you’ll definitely be thinking about what Dujardin has done here, but Haenel is right behind him.

Deerskin goes a bit off the rails in the third act, but that may cement it as truly memorable. In a way, Dupieux is kind of like a poor man’s Yorgos Lanthimos here. You either accept the film’s logic and the way its characters act, or you don’t. If you do, this could be a dark delight. If you don’t, the short under 80 minute running time will seem like an eternity, complete with lots of head shaking. Some folks will certainly be in the latter category. I found myself in the former, despite thinking the ending was less than satisfying. Dujardin, Dupieux, and Haenel manage to do small wonders with this bizarre premise.

This weekend, anyone in the mood for something weird should give a shot to Deerskin. The mix of comedy and horror put forward by Quentin Dupieux is very much in his wheelhouse, but more accessible than usual. Jean Dujardin alone is worth the price of admission (or pushing that purchase button on your television, these days), while Adèle Haenel puts forth a memorable supporting turn. They give Dupieux’s vision something more tangible, resulting in a film well worth seeing.

Be sure to check out Deerskin, in Virtual Cinemas on Friday!

(Photos courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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