Meet the beast.
This is a mid-life crisis. Strike that. This is a mid-life crisis in a Quentin Dupieux movie. I add that clarifier because most people don’t turn into serial killers when buying a high-priced item or having an affair will suffice. But most people aren’t like Georges (Jean Dujardin)—he does all three. Well, strike that from the record too. We don’t actually know if he’s had an affair. All we know for certain is that his wife never wants to see him again. Withdrawing 7,500 euros from the joint account to buy a 100% deerskin jacket (with fringe intact) from some dude who swears he only wore it a year before fashions shifted probably didn’t help matters. With the incomparable style it provides, though, who needs a wife?
Who needs a companion at all when a jacket that cool can become your best friend? It can talk to you, comfort you, and let you know you’ll never be alone again. It can also ask you to do things to ensure that remains true—things like dedicating your life to the eradication of other jackets so it has no competition. Georges would become the last man alive who’s able to wear one and wouldn’t that type of power be infectious? He can’t dupe too many into giving their coats away for money now that he’s been frozen out of the account. And appealing to their sense of charity is tough when asking people to remove their jacket makes him seem like a reprobate looking for stripteases.
That’s why it’s a good thing Dupieux has gone back to his roots for Le daim [Deerskin]. This is the French filmmaker who burst on the scene with Rubber and its homicidal car tire, so why not give another inanimate object the impulse for murder? Rather than grant the jacket life, however, he goes for the subtler metaphor of its owner losing his mind. It’s Georges’ voice that’s heard and mouth that moves whenever the coat speaks. It’s the manifestation of a long-gestating malice for anyone who’s ever prevented him from getting what he wants. At first it’s a joke—an inner monologue spoken aloud to embrace the excitement of possessing something uniquely new. But then it becomes aggressive. It interrupts him. Wakes him up. And asks him to kill.
At seventy-seven minutes, you don’t need much more than that to satisfy a plot destined for cult status as opposed to award season glory. Being that Dupieux has never been one to do the bare minimum, he unsurprisingly injects an embellished psychological examination atop the obvious genre trappings too. As with Wrong and Réalité, though, doing so doesn’t negate his desire to keep things absurdly comical in the process. Why not turn such projections of pithiness on their head by having his lead character wonder aloud (with meta intent) if that’s really what the movie should be about. Maybe this thing can exist for pure entertainment. Maybe a guy can go around killing people for an impossible task without greater purpose. Why waste time with meaning?
Georges might very well be a stand-in for Dupieux himself: the underappreciated artist that people don’t think should be included in circles such as those his accomplishments (accepted into Cannes, TIFF, Sundance, and Venice) allow. Georges is constantly underestimated (regardless of the fact he should be due to creating a false identity and motivations) and thus forever on the precipice of doing something that no one will ever forget. He’s a con man duping an opportunistic waitress (Adèle Haenel‘s Denise) into going on this journey of lies in the hopes of catching her big break as a film editor. All it took was the confidence of this singular look adopted and augmented via coincidence and happenstance. Who knew you could cover 90% of your body in deerskin apparel?
Don’t think too hard when watching (Why is nobody talking about the bodies?) because allowing the farce to wash over you is the point. Denise’s love for Tarantino and violence to truly sell a picture means that Georges can film himself doing all kinds of things without her batting an eye or caring how he pulled off the “special effects.” The blood and action comprise a visual language she can mold. And his naiveté means she can assert her own creative control over whatever is on the tapes he delivers. Just don’t mock his appearance. Don’t you dare denounce the allure that’s evoked by this auteur aesthetic of head-to-toe leather. It will only reveal your ignorance to what’s happening and surely place your jacket on the to-do list.
Dujardin is delightful with an endearingly child-like sense of curiosity. Any time Haenel provides insight he’d never come up with himself, his wide-eyed stares of passion and/or badly hidden backtracking to hide his inexperience are perfectly awkward and hilarious. We can’t pity him considering his being broke and alone seems his own fault, but we can rally behind his obsession as a way to cope (body count or not). He’s simply too innocent to dislike and too charmingly dumb to rule out whether the jacket is forcing him to do these terrible things. Having Haenel’s Denise’s skepticism as contrast therefore helps because her barometer proves how far gone Georges is. But is that suspicion enough to stop her from succumbing to the coat’s allure right along with him?
 Georges (Jean Dujardin) admiring his reflection – DEERSKIN – Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment
 Denise (Adèle Haenel) – DEERSKIN – Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment
 Georges (Jean Dujardin) offering his camera to Denise (Adèle Haenel) – DEERSKIN – Courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment