A decade after Quentin Dupieux’s feature debut, a film (Rubber) about a sentient tire that goes on a homicidal killing spree, the French writer-director delivers another crackpot premise, one with considerably more depth to its tread.
Jean Dujardin (The Artist) plays Georges, a man apparently on the verge of a mental breakdown, who drops $7,000 on a fringed deerskin jacket (with a camcorder thrown in for free), and holes up in a remote rural motel, where he convinces Denise, a bored bartender (Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Adèle Haenel) who edits in her spare time (‘I put Pulp Fiction into chronological order,’ she says. ‘It sucked!’), that he is a director making an artsy film.
As she starts assemble his footage, Georges begins talking to the deerskin jacket – and, in his delusion, it talks back, expressing its desire to be the only jacket that will ever be worn by anyone. What follows is a blackly comic folie à deux, in which Georges goes to ever more extreme lengths to grant the garment's single-minded desire, encouraged by his apparently guileless acolyte.
Whether viewed as a treatise on mental illness, fragile masculinity, or the entitlement afforded to artists (a feeling perhaps exaggerated by the presence of Haenel, who recently stormed out of the French Oscars to protest an award given to Roman Polanski), or just a wackadoodle yarn, Deerskin works because Dupieux and Dujardin – who won an Oscar for The Artist, but is arguably even better here – present it with absolute, deadpan conviction. At 77 minutes, it's short – but it will stay with you for a long, long time.