It’s a bright crystalline afternoon on the Quinzaine Beach on Cannes’ Croisette but Jean Dujardin, dressed in a beige suede jacket and deerskin boots, has dragged a chair out into the sand to feel the warmth of the sun.
“I have a cold and no voice left,” he apologizes with a smile. Eight years after the award-winning role in Michel Hazanavicious’ première of “The Artist”, the 46-year-old actor is back in Cannes to talk about his newest film, Deerskin, by Quentin Dupieux (Rubber), co-starring Adèle Haenel.
In this off-the-wall dark comedy, the film opens with Georges (Dujardin), a slightly husky middle-aged bearded man driving an old car around the winding snowy roads of the Alps, to the tune of Joe Dassin’s melancholic 1975 hit, “Si tu n’existais pas”.
Once he purchases a 100% deerskin fringed jacket for a small fortune from a crusty old villager who has a trunkful of vintage cast-offs, you might say that all hell breaks loose. Georges (whom we learn has been dumped by his wife) develops an obsession with his “Killer style” jacket and slowly becomes unhinged from reality. He holes up in a country inn and eventually develops a relationship with his beloved buckskin and tries out his camcorder (which was thrown into the deal as a free gift by the jacket-seller). Convinced of an absurd premise that will ultimately lead Georges to bloodshed, the jacket triggers improbable developments that take the form of a veritable mission.
“There were two driving forces that made me want to work with Quentin on this,” Dujardin says. “One was the idea of escape, fleeing your life. The other was obsession.”
What are Dujardin’s own personal obsessions? “I can’t live with stains on my pants, I see them everywhere” he grins, rubbing an imaginary dark spot on his jeans. “And I obsess about learning my lines!” As for preparing for the role, the actor says that, for once, he abandoned even trying. “I had to be very available and open to Quentin, but it was like a kind of regression to a kind of animal state. You’re nothing—socially, you don’t exist anymore.”
Georges finds an equally wacky kindred spirit in Denise (Haenel), the village barmaid who, as it happens, is an aspiring film editor.
You’ll find yourself laughing out loud at Dujardin’s masterful timing and absurd sense of sang froid. “There’s no violence in this character,” Dujardin says. “He just goes to the end of something, it’s a kind of suicide, all for a pretext, like he was bitten by some kind of collector’s bug.”
Deerskin opens in France on June 19, 2019.