There are a ton of films out there about the figure that goes out in search of themselves. These films are often optimistic and hopeful. If that’s the story you’re looking for, DEERSKIN isn’t it!
DEERSKIN is cynical. It’s ridiculous. It’s uncomfortable and off-putting in the best way possible. DEERSKIN is an actor’s piece and a study in awkward masculinity. To sum it up into a single thought: DEERSKIN is an experience.
The film is directed by Quentin Depieux and stars Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Adele Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire). This quirky little genre number has made the rounds on the festival circuit, appearing as an official selection of Fantastic Fest 2019, Toronto International Film Festival 2019, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2020, and opening the Directors’ Fortnight Cannes 2019.
In DEERSKIN, a recent divorcee, Georges, leaves his life behind to escape to a remote Alpine village. On the way, he stops to blow almost all of his savings on a vintage, fringed deerskin jacket. Almost instantly, Georges becomes obsessed… first with the confidence the jacket bestows on him, and then the jacket as its own powerful entity.
DEERSKIN follows the well-treaded path of the midlife crisis narrative a la titles like American Beauty. When we first meet Georges he’s greyed, non-descript if not a little drab, and totally forgettable. As is so common in these narratives, Georges roars out of obscurity once he adopts a radical symbol. In this case, that symbol comes in the form of the fringed deerskin jacket.
So what does this fringed statement piece represent? Quite a bit, actually. The deerskin and fringe lends a Southwest look to the wearer, creating a style in Georges that is reminiscent of Western heroes like John Wayne. The West and the figure of the cowboy are mascots of rugged individualism and masculinity. Fitting for the doughy suburbanite looking to seize a new chapter in his life. The jacket is a vintage piece that summons up in Georges memories of his youth. Many times, Georges marvels at his own reflection and declares himself as having killer style. This unique vintage piece serves as both armor and a time machine. The jacket takes Georges back to his youthful glory days while also placing a protective barrier around his vulnerabilities and insecurities.
As the film progresses the jacket takes on a spirit of its own, whispering to Georges and driving him to increasingly extreme actions. At first glance, it seems that the wishes of the jacket make no sense and are random but that’s not true. Every decision that George makes, once he obtains the deerskin jacket, is in pursuit of his lost youth. He revisits the lifelong dreams that passed him by when he takes on the alias of a filmmaker. He launches a LITERAL attack on his envy of youth by brutalizing local teen boys.
Above all, the jacket’s secret wish that it be the only jacket in the world speaks to Georges desperation for meaning in a life that has largely been wasted. As the film progresses, Georges buys more pieces of deerskin clothing until he is eventually decked out from head to toe. He quite literally immerses himself in the fantasy that he has created.
DEERSKIN is completely bizarre. A story that baffles as much as it intrigues, but it is carried off flawlessly by Jean Dujardin who is selling the hell out of it. For the French funny man, he manages to pull off a very restrained dramatic performance with a perfect twinge of weirdness. The violence is equally out of place and strange. In several moments, something truly upsetting will happen and you’ll find yourself laughing. Maybe it’s hilarious, maybe your brain has finally broken.
Come for the killer cast, stay for this circus of the strange. DEERSKIN comes with a warm recommendation from us! DEERSKIN opens nationwide on May 1, 2020, as part of a global cinema initiative.