A Wild, Absurdist Ride (Review: DEERSKIN)
Director Quentin Dupieux is at it again. The man who gave us RUBBER (2010), a film about a homicidal car tire, now presents his newest film, DEERSKIN: a wild, absurdist ride that keeps you simultaneously laughing hysterically and horrified throughout its entire 77 minutes.
There is something in Georges (Jean Dujardin) that has snapped. We don't know what has happened to him prior to the events of the film, except that he was married, and he has now discarded that marriage in search of his new life goal: to rid the world of all jackets but his.
It's not just any jacket. It is an Italian, 100% leather jacket that he bought secondhand from a man who had worn it for a year, then stored it away because it had gone out of style. It has fringe; it is in great condition. It used to have a label ("Made in Italy") but the seller removed it because it itched. The seller is even including a brand new digital video camera in order to sweeten the deal - not that Georges expected the camera. He's more concerned with the jacket.
Georges immediately bonds with this jacket. He talks to it -- it talks back. "Georges," it says, "my greatest dream is to be the only jacket in the world." "Glad to hear it," says Georges, "because my greatest dream is to be the only person in the world to wear a jacket."
Even just describing the premise of this film transports me back to the absurdist mindset that the film puts you in as you watch. Once Georges decides that he's a filmmaker, and making his film will aid him in accomplishing his greatest dream, the plot really thickens. He barters a stay at a hotel with his wedding band (he spent all his money on the jacket, and his wife cut him off from their bank account). He strikes up an unconventional friendship with Denise (Adèle Haenel), the local bartender, "hiring" her (or rather, manipulating her) as the editor of his film. And he begins videotaping people on the street, paying them to state to the camera, "I swear to never wear a jacket again," and then actually locking their jackets in the trunk of his car and driving away.
Denise loves the footage Georges is getting for his film. She gives him money (he tells her the producers are stuck in Siberia and cannot fund him), and tells him his film needs more action and blood. He acquiesces, in a way that only a psychopath can: he removes a blade from his ceiling fan and uses it on victims with jackets.
What is interesting about this story is that we keep waiting to see an explanation of where the crazy comes from, and there never is - not unlike what we experience in the real world sometimes. Dupieux expertly puts us in that precarious position between feeling uncomfortable and being driven by the need to know what the hell makes this man tick. And while an explanation may be there, deeply hidden in the layers of leather clothing, we will never see it.
And so we expound ourselves. The film is ingenious in that while Dupieux creates a straightforward, stark depiction of insanity, he also allows his audiences to have fun with it and let their imaginations gone wild. Was it stress? Loneliness? Maybe a little bit of egocentrism that went too far? Is Georges trying to prove his masculinity in some strange, outdated way? The beauty of not knowing is that we fill in the blanks. I'm sure each of us will have a different opinion about who Georges really is by the end of the film.
That's what makes this film so good. It's not the humor (though there's humor) or the horror (though there's horror), it's the way that the story forces us to interact with it. You simply cannot watch this film without trying to solve the puzzle of Georges and his deerskin jacket.
Probably my favorite film of the year so far. Definitely check out DEERSKIN!