Fumer fait tousser
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Smoking Causes Coughing is currently available for VOD rental.
DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux
FEATURING: Gilles Lellouche, Anaïs Demoustier, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra, Vincent Lacoste, voice of Alain Chabat
PLOT: A Power Rangers-like group of heroes goes on a team building retreat and tells campfire stories; will the world end before they can solve their issues?
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: A group of avengers named the Tobacco Force destroys their enemies by shooting them with smoke and giving them cancer. A large fish tells a story about a young man who, after being involved in an industrial shredder accident, becomes a pair of lips in a pail of gore. For these and many more absurd instances, Smoking Causes Coughing could be a shoo-in for Apocryphal status.
COMMENTS: Quentin Dupieux’s newest film, Smoking Causes Coughing, is superficially about the Tobacco Force, the “coolest avengers in the world,” according to one of their in-film fans. Power Rangers meets Danger 5, the Tobacco Force regularly saves the world from rubber-suited monsters. Recently, however, they have been having problems with insincerity and individualism. To come together as a team before meeting their ultimate nemesis, Lézardin, their boss (a rat puppet who constantly drools green slime) assigns them to a team-building retreat. There they tell stories around a campfire, and the movie becomes an anthology, returning to the Tobacco Force between stories.
As the team sits around the fire, a young girl appears and tells a story. Later one of them catches a barracuda in the lake and, yes, the barracuda tells a story. The stories are the highlight of the movie. They are inventive, twisted, existential jokes. They are also often gory.
Dupieux does not stray from his absurdist existentialism. For instance, in the first story a woman puts on a “Thinking Helmet” that promises to purify the mind. A few minutes later we are in a deadpan slasher, as if to say that if a person knows the truth, they will not be able to abide the way things are.
The pace throughout is steady but not quick. Scenes that seem too long or even pointless add to the sense of ennui and to questioning life in general. Some elements are completely unexpected—absurd, silly, and sometimes mind-boggling.
Their boss, the Chief, is the only puppet in the film; he would feel right at home in Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles. He’s utterly disgusting and also unbearably attractive to every woman in the movie. Perhaps a comment on power? Perhaps simple absurdity.
This movie is not going to change anyone’s mind about Quentin Dupieux. If you enjoyed his previous films, you’ll likely enjoy this one. If you didn’t, well… you get the point. But if you haven’t seen anything by him, and you’ve made it this far into this review, then maybe you’ll dig it. It isn’t revelatory; it’s just an existential absurdist good time.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Trying to explain ‘Smoking Causes Coughing’ is like recounting a dream: The person listening might not care, and it might not mean anything to them, but it leaves a weirdly unforgettable impression on the spectator.”–Ryan Lattanzio, IndieWire (contemporaneous)