Quentin Dupieux, the filmmaker behind the 2010 cult-classic Rubber—a horror movie about a killer tire that your weird friend keeps trying to get you to watch—is back in the saddle with Deerskin. Hot tip: The film is available to stream early, with some proceeds going to Film Streams. Deerskin was originally intended to play in the microtheater at Dundee. It’s easy to see why…
Late-night comedy channel Adult Swim famously drops demented short films in the middle of random commercial breaks just to screw with their stoner audience. Deerskin feels a heck of a lot like one of those. Playing it in a normal theater would have been a disservice. Deerskin is the type of hellish debauchery that deserves to be hidden in the shadows.
The film picks up just as Georges (Jean Dujardin) arrives in a small French village to start a new life after leaving his wife. When the opportunity arises to buy a handsome deerskin jacket, Georges doesn’t hesitate. Because he has “killer style.” What begins as a relatively innocuous manifestation of an average mid-life crisis quickly turns into an unhealthy obsession.
Georges covets his deerskin jacket as if it’s the one ring to rule them all. He grows fiercely jealous of all other jackets, and promises his deerskin that he’ll somehow rid the world of them. “In one thousand years, you’ll be the only man with a jacket,” his deerskin reassures him. Georges ropes aspiring editor Denise (Adele Haenel) into a scheme to steal jackets by posing as a filmmaker.
Slowly but surely, Deerskin descends into exactly the sort of madness you’d expect from the writer/director of a movie about an evil psychic tire. Speaking of Adult Swim, if Tim and Eric jotted down a nightmare in their dream journals, it’s safe to say it would look something like Deerskin. Despite being over-the-top and absurd, there’s deeply unsettling emotional realism and uneasy stillness throughout the film. You go into each scene wondering whether it’ll end up being hilarious or horrific. Like all great dark comedies, there’s even a little existential dread peppered throughout, just to make sure you’re not laughing because you’re having a fun time but because you can’t believe what you’re seeing.
If there’s any real flaw in Deerskin, it’s just that the movie is too out there. It’s so aggressively weird that something about it keeps you at arm’s length. Maybe it’s that this particular style of comedy requires the characters to be ciphers. Or maybe it’s that Georges’ plan to steal jackets leads down such an obvious path that it doesn’t shock you as much as it should when the movie’s slow burn is finally ready to explode. Maybe it’s Rubber talking, but I can’t help imagining another version of Deerskin filmed with the jacket itself as the protagonist.
However, if you finally convinced your friends to watch Rubber and they reacted “What the f##k?!” but in a good way, Dupieux’s Deerskin has got you covered with another weird movie you’ll be happy to recommend.
Grade = B+