A forest green corduroy number. Three buttons by the cuff, tailored lapels. Jean Dujardin as renegade divorcé Georges is wearing a pretty handsome blazer as Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin begins. It’s nice, but it’s not good enough – the prize in his eyes is a fringed, fitted, 100 per cent deerskin jacket. She’s an absolute beauty, and she matters more than anything.
“As you can see, it’s not an ordinary jacket,” the seller tells Georges. The meeting between the jacket and its new wearer sets the wheels in motion for a story of a fetish, of a codependent relationship between an inanimate object and a swell-headed man that, like many of the most passionate love affairs, can only end in tragedy.
Georges’ livelihood depends on the jacket (which subsequently takes over the rest of his outfit, with an outstanding head-to-toe 100 per cent suede look) as his identity revolves around a very simple dream: to be the only person in the world wearing a jacket. His irrational – but never visibly hysterical – obsession intersects with a half-hearted attempt to become a filmmaker, when he’s given a handycam as a freebie with his world-shattering purchase. The hobby entails meeting other people sporting outerwear, convincing these people to no longer sport outerwear, navigating the puzzled reactions and thus building a whole bewildering internal narrative around this mission.
And so the story flits between refractions of sincere narcissism, back and forth between the shaky zooms of Georges’ clueless cinematography (revealing Dupieux’s inescapable fascination with the quirks of his own process) and the magnetic stares caught in the reflections of mirrors and car windows. The character seems cut from the same cloth as Jake Gyllenhaal’s unhinged entrepreneur Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler, while being guided by the inescapable aroma of Peter Strickland’s haunted dress in giallo romp In Fabric.
But Dupieux plays by his own rules, crafting an immaculate, taut portrait of pathetic navel-gazing masculinity, a study of a man both unaware of and unapologetic in his psychopathy. Deerskin toys with the damnation of its other characters too, offering a playful turn for Adèle Haenel as gutsy waitress-cum-video editor Denise, boasting the actor’s range to extend beyond the solemn roles that have put her on the map so far.
The film is wickedly funny without a hint of pantomimic excess, its intelligence feels both hyperreal and resolutely deadpan in turn. Georges admires his killer style, blinded by the light of his own sartorial majesty – but then there’s never any escaping the irony in the irreparable threat of blood stains on suede. The dangerous path that Dupieux treads is nothing short of delicious.