Cult Classics: Le Daim (Deerskin)

le daim deerskinQuentin Dupieux’s in my top seven film directors list, a consistently unpredictable and quite unique voice in French cinema who’s responsible for some truly deranged and unusual films, from the rough round the edges but still enormously fun NonFilm to the absurd weirdness that was Rubber to the offbeat meta insanity that was Au Poste! (aka Keep An Eye Out). So a new film by him is now always a big event, and yet again he hasn’t disappointed.

As films by Dupieux go this is actually quite an uncomplicated affair, yes, it’s odd and then some but there’s no bizarre, completely unpredictable twists or meta moments which completely change the reality of the piece. I’m not complaining though, as much as I enjoy it when he does these things it’s great to see him play around with different ideas and forms of cinema, all the while still making a movie which is quite unique and extremely funny.

At the beginning we witness three people take off their jackets, put them in to a car boot, and promise never to wear one again, it’s an intriguing start and then some but before it’s explained what exactly’s happening we cut back to Georges (Jean Dujardin) driving through the countryside, where he’s on his way to buy a deerskin jacket for an exorbitant sum of money, with the seller so delighted by the sale that he throws in a camcorder for free.

Georges then checks in to a hotel and over the next ten minutes we’re given a bunch of exposition as to how he’s separated from his wife, and when at the local bar he lies about being a film director to barmaid Denise (Adèle Haenel) in an attempt to impress her. As she’s a wannabe editor it does actually work, which leads Georges to film various elements of his new, rather dull life, but then everything begins to spiral out of control as Georges becomes obsessed with his jacket to the extent that he starts imagining it’s talking to him.

From this point on it’s all about his slowly declining sanity as he becomes more and more bewitched by the jacket, to the extent that soon everything he wears is also made of deerskin, and we’re then back to the beginning of the film where he starts paying actors to declare that they’ll never wear a jacket ever again as he wants to be the only one doing such a thing, but unfortunately his money soon runs out and his desires take a murderous turn.

It’s a dry witted piece and one that’s gloriously absurd, which is what Dupieux does best. Georges and Denise are appealing leads and so when their lives become increasingly deranged they’re still strangely likeable, and it becomes funnier and funnier as their obsessions prevent them from seeing just how screwed up everything has become. Georges generates most of the funniest moments due to his passion for the rather dated piece of clothing, but Denise’s odd acceptance of it all makes for a good few amusing moments too.

As with a couple of other of Dupieux’s films the ending is a little unsatisfying, and other than the themes concerning the nature of obsession and mental illness it doesn’t really have that much to say. But it’s mainly about the journey, and boy, what a journey it is, one which is gorgeously odd and weird and never less than captivating, and one which yet again proves that Dupieux is one of the best European filmmakers currently working.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
Our review of Au Poste!

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