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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Deerskin’ a study of obsession … but by whom?


You have to wonder sometimes how movies get produced. I don't mean just released by distributors, or edited, acted and directed, or even written. I mean, how do some movie ideas even get hatched in the brains of screenwriters?

That thought struck me last night when I finished watching "Deerskin," a 77-minute exercise in exactly what I really can't say. Written (so to speak) and directed (competently, I'll give it that much) by French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, "Deerskin" tells the story of a man's obsession with a deerskin jacket.

At least that's how it begins. The man, Georges (played by Jean Dujardin), drives what appears to be a great distance, and spends some $7,500 euros on the kind of fringed leather jacket that Dennis Hopper wore in "Easy Rider."

He doesn't seem to have any connection to anyone, except a just-severed relationship with a woman he talks to over the phone (his wife?). And he has no more money. But he makes a deal to stay in a remote-area hotel (the movie was shot in the scenic Pyrenees of southwestern France), preens in front of a mirror in his new jacket, begins to play around with his new digital camcorder … and slowly goes mad.

Or perhaps madder. It's hard to say whether he was ever truly sane. In any event, he begins to call himself a filmmaker, starts filming indiscriminately (always coming back to himself), "hires" a young woman (Adele Haenel of "Portrait of a Lady on Fire") to "edit" his work (and give him money) and continues to buy more deerskin clothing (boots, pants, gloves).

Somewhere along the way, he begins talking to his jacket … I know, right? … and agrees to fulfill their common dream: to rid the world of all jackets except for the one he now owns. Which is the point where the film enters the realm that critic Owen Glieberman describes as a cross between "Barton Fink" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."

Dujardin, probably known best to U.S. audiences as the star of the 2011 Oscar-winning film "The Artist" (for which he won a Best Actor Oscar), is fine as Georges. Haenel, too, is worth watching. And the scenery is, at times, stunning.

Dupieux, who also is a musician who performs under the stage name Mr. Oiso, is obviously a fan of absurdity. At what point, though, does absurdity become merely its own kind of self-referencing obsession?

Also, where can I get one of those stylin' jackets?

"Deerskin" is streaming through the Magic Lantern Theater.

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