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Deerskin
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by Jay Seaver

"A bit more introspective but still kind of 'Wrong'."
3 stars

About six years and three features ago, when reviewing Quentin Dupieux's "Wrong Cops", I joked that the director of some of the decade's most entertaining bits of cinematic nonsense was "only a few films away from doing something eccentric but basically sensible". "Deerskin" doesn't have him quite there, but it's grounded in a way Dupieux's other films are not, for better or worse. It's maybe more mature, but less zany fun.

He introduces the audience to Georges (Jean Dujardin), who has taken to the road to buy a fancy Italian deerskin jacket that the previous owner (Albert Delpy) hasn't worn in some time, paying well enough that the man throws a video recorder in. After that, Georges checks into a hotel, making apologies for being short of cash, putting on airs and passing himself off as a filmmaker. He soon finds himself having conversations with his beloved jacket, which apparently wants to be the only jacket in the world, dovetailing nicely with how he would like to be the only person wearing a jacket. Meanwhile, the server at the hotel bar (Adèle Haenel) mentions that she enjoys video editing as a hobby, so he hires her to work on the film. She's not exactly sure what to make of the seemingly random footage Georges is shooting - or maybe she's got a better instinct for it than he does.

It's not long before the audience learns that Georges's marriage has reached its end in what appears to be tremendously acrimonious fashion, and him being a regular guy in the throes of some sort of breakdown rather than an inhabitant of an inherently bizarre world is a different approach for Dupieux. The way that Georges reacts - a desperate but befuddled need to be seen as cool although only half-heartedly willing to work for it - is a clever take on a man completely adrift after being rejected, and Jean Dujardin slips into the part perfectly, amiably befuddled and kind of sad as he talks to himself, but just with the right whiff of arrogance to it. He's one of those characters where his blank-ness is part of the point, and while Dujardin captures that, it doesn't necessarily draw the audience in.

Instead, Dupieux seems more interested in poking at "emperor has no clothes" situations, with Georges in his deerskin jacket and other accessories eventually succeeding in part because he looks the part of an artist, a testament to how far somebody who doesn't know what he's doing can get, even accidentally, so long as he looks the part to the point where he seemingly starts to believe it. Adèle Haenel's Denise is an interesting complement in that she buys into Georges's bullshit, but she also knows what she's doing, and between her taking money out of the ATM, seeing something in the footage that isn't initially there (at least consciously), and trying to shape it into something that makes sense. The artist, in this case, is not so important as the person who corrals him.

Does that necessarily apply to Dupieux himself? Maybe, although he does serve as his own editor and cinematographer (although he no longer scores his films despite being initially known as a musician). While there's not really enough story to his script for even a 77-minute movie, he does a few nifty things, such as the scenes where he talks with his jacket and Dupieux never moves or cuts but changes focus so that when the jacket "speaks", one can see it's also Georges, but it's just blurry enough or at the margins that the viewer sees it as an in-between thing, both the reality and delusion visible. He does a neat job of shooting Georges's encounters with people on the street so that they feel real and improvised. A lot of that seems to be just saying, screw it, we shoot through the snow, but it works.

All of this makes "Deerskin" feel a lot more specific than most of Dupieux's other features, although it is still random and eccentric in many ways. It is, I suppose, fitting that this more focused fim integrates someone trying to make sense out of a would-be filmmaker's nonsense into the story, even if I don't necessarily want to see this as the first film of a new, more grounded phase of his career.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33252&reviewer=371
originally posted: 05/07/20 02:57:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  01-May-2020

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  04-Jun-2020 (MA)




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