Tag Archives: Quentin Dupieux

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE (2022)

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Incroyable mais vrai

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux

FEATURING: , , Benoît Magimel,

PLOT: Unlike his wife, Alain isn’t impressed by the dazzling feature hidden away in the basement of their new home, and his boss Gérard can’t believe that neither of them are impressed by his new penis.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Dupieux takes on two absurd premises and runs with both in tandem, and in so doing explores some lofty themes by way of a time-travel plot device and a “steerable” iPenis.

COMMENTS: Please believe me when I say there was a legitimate reason why I began earnestly checking my watch two-thirds into this (*gasp*), and for hoofing it out of the auditorium before the end credits had finished (double-*gasp*). Incredible But True filled me with such enthusiasm that I felt it imperative to return to my hotel room as quickly as possible to write this review. So, here I am. I made good time—and that is a perfect segue.

Dupieux’s latest film is predominately about time, and its passing. About aging, and aging’s ramifications. Alain (Alain Chabat, in full-on mellow) is an insurance functionary, and he and his wife purchase a new home featuring an odd basement amenity that, as the realtor explains after much breathless “You won’t be believe this…”, defies the laws of space and time. The upshot of it is a slooooow path to youth. This prospect leaves Alain amused, but fairly indifferent; his wife Marie becomes obsessed. Before the domestic feature takes over her life, the two have dinner with Alain’s boss Gérard, and his girlfriend Jeanne. These dinner guests explain, after much delay in the reveal, that Gérard got an upgrade.

The deadpan comedy trundles along to a plucky score, with the surrounding absurdity perfectly bouncing off Alain Chabat’s unflappable demeanor. His character is older, and content with it; has his limitations, and is at peace with those. Marie becomes obsessed with youth, Gérard is obsessed with being perceived as masculine—exemplified most obviously by his implant, but also by his penchant for fast cars and firing ranges, where a nasty recoil incident triggers his first run-in with technological fallibility. In many ways, Alain is more like Jeanne, an avidly sexual being who lives for the now and neither makes nor demands apologies from others living their lives.

Having set this plot in motion, Dupieux lets it roll nicely until…

Until…

Until… it just kind of ends. I like to think that I understand, as much as one might hope to, what Dupieux is about. I love that no idea is too crazy, and that someone out there is making comedies that are clever and outlandish. But too often, his movies just seem to stop. He’s got the middles nailed, and is good enough setting his various gears in motion (maybe he’d do well to talk with Steven Penny), but though I don’t necessarily demand a punchline, or, Heaven forbid, a nicely wrapped-up narrative complete with expository ribbon, RubberKeep an Eye Out, and now Incredible But True all feel like they cop-out on the finale. That said, I can still full-throatedly recommend this movie—as could the hundreds of fellow viewers who laughed along with me through the feature. Indeed, watching a Dupieux film in a theater full of avid enthusiasts was almost as surreal as the film itself.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Throughout the film’s lean 74 minutes, Dupieux coaxes four strong core performances, while the jaunty bounce of Jon Santo’s synth-led score mirrors the film’s cheerful weirdness.” -Lou Thomas, Sight & Sound (festival screening)

*24. KEEP AN EYE OUT (2018)

Au Poste!

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux

FEATURING: , , Marc Fraize, Anaïs Demoustier

PLOT: Having discovered a dead body under not-very suspicious circumstances, Louis is brought in by the police for questioning. His account of the event arouses the suspicions of police commissioner Buron, but Louis is even more suspicious of the police because of their circular arguments, penchant for distraction, and curious behavior. Louis becomes concerned that he will bear the responsibility for an increasing number of unlucky events, and must recount his actions in fine detail in an effort to affirm his innocence.

Still from Keep an Eye Out [Au Poste!] (2018)

BACKGROUND:

  • This was native Frenchman Dupieux’s first feature actually produced in his home country.
  • The film’s original French title translates as “To the police station!” It can also be translated to mean “at the office.” It can also be interpreted to mean someone who is at their assigned spot (“at one’s post”), in much the way a call of “Places!” summons the actors to their marks at the start of a play.
  • Scenes at the police station were filmed in the headquarters of the French Communist Party, designed by acclaimed architect Oscar Niemeyer.
  • Alain Chabat is credited with providing “screams of pain.” Chabat appeared in Reality as a film director attempting to win an Oscar for the best wail of pain.
  • The film’s poster parodies that of the significantly more action-oriented Jean-Paul Belmondo crime thriller Peur sur la Ville (Fear over the City).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Philippe, a hapless cop-wannabe, suffers from an unfortunate condition, and its reveal is a genuine shock. It’s not merely that he has only one eye. It’s that the whole upper quadrant of his face is smoothed over, as though the mere idea of an eye socket never existed. And once he begins espousing his hyper-preparedness for even the most surreal of accidents, it is absolutely inevitable that Chekhov’s Plastic Angle Square will fulfill its destiny.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Near nude conductor; crunchy oyster

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: by way of with a healthy layer of Douglas Adams and a final punch of Sartre, Keep an Eye Out is a fantasia of absurdism. Dupieux and his actors seem to be engaged in a contest to see who can be the most deadpan, and the tone never wavers, neither in the face of escalating ridiculousness nor an unexpected and tragic conclusion.

Original trailer for Au Poste!

COMMENTS: We begin with an orchestra in a meadow, accompanying the opening credits under the baton of a mustachioed man clad Continue reading *24. KEEP AN EYE OUT (2018)

CAPSULE: MANDIBLES (2020)

Mandibules

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos

PLOT: Two dimwitted thugs think they’ve struck it rich when they find a giant fly in the trunk of their stolen car.

Still from Mandibles [Mandibules] (2020)

COMMENTS: The shaggy-fly comedy Mandibles showcases the more accessible side of Quentin Dupieux; it’s getting the widest American release of any of his film’s since Rubber (2010), and his best notices from mainstream viewers and reviewers. While 2018’s Keep an Eye Out was a nonstop assault of ian jokes and experiments, Mandibles (like 2019’s Deerskin) restricts itself to only a couple of deadpan absurdist premises (the giant fly being, naturally, the main one). It’s an olive branch for those who believe that, when it comes to weird, less is more.

Mandibles starts when Manu, homeless and sleeping on the beach and looking like a French version of the Dude, gets a hush-hush commission to deliver a mysterious suitcase, no questions asked, for 500 Euros. (As this is a Dupieux film, you can be sure the valise will not contain a kilo of heroin, stolen diamonds, or plans for an Iranian nuclear reactor.) Manu invites buddy Jean-Gab along on the low-key caper, but complications immediately arise when they find that the trunk of their stolen car houses an enormous fly. Jean-Gab, the marginally brighter of the two, hatches the idea to train the flying pest as an assistant for their criminal careers. The suitcase is temporarily forgotten as the two buffoonish thugs seek to enact their plan, overcoming small-scale obstacles (accidentally locked trunks, fires, car problems) as they try to avoid tripping over their own feet.  Manu’s efforts go to scrounging up food and lodging, while Jean-Gab spends his time training the fly he’s named Dominique. Through a crazy coincidence, their picaresque adventures eventually land them at a country villa where they meet a suspicious Adèle Exarchopoulos, who threatens to uncover their subterfuge—despite suffering from a novel neurological problem (the movie’s second big surreal joke).

It’s the friendship between Manu and Jean-Gab, rather than the fly’s antics, that carries the movie. These two dopes have a bit of a Bill and Ted dynamic (with their “toro” handshake subbing for the California dudes’ air guitar salutation). Their criminality is opportunistic rather than mean-spirited; in real-life, their poorly conceived scams would quickly land them in prison, but in the movie’s world they’re able to abduct people and steal property without serious repercussions. They never get anywhere; perpetual victims of their own stupidity, they have a tendency accidentally destroy all their ill-gotten gains. Their simplicity and unswerving loyalty to each other leads the audience to root for them despite their boorish behavior, however, and you even see how their insect companion could get attached to them. Meanwhile, their escapades provide just enough unpredictability and amusement to carry the slight narrative through its brisk 75-minute runtime.

Is Grégoire Ludig becoming Dupieux’s leading man of choice? He’s unrecognizable here from his turn in Keep an Eye Out, and he even shows up here briefly in a second role—again unrecognizable. He’s got a chameleonic presence and good comic timing, two things a Dupieux film can always use.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s not Dupieux’s best work, but there are enough laughs and head-shaking moments to make ‘Mandibles’ an entertaining jaunt into weirdosville.”–Carla Hay, Culture Mix (contemporaneous)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: KEEP AN EYE OUT [AU POSTE!] (2018)

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Keep an Eye Out has been promoted to Apocryphally Weird status. Please read the official entry.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Marc Fraize

PLOT: A detective interviews a man who has discovered a corpse under not-very-suspicious circumstances.

Still from Keep an Eye Out (Au Poste) (2021)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Quentin Dupieux’s effervescently surreal policier parody recalls vintage 70s cinema. And it’s actually pretty weird.

COMMENTS: The thing that strikes me about Keep an Eye Out is that it feels dashed off—effortlessly. It clocks in at just over an hour, it’s mostly dialogue-based, and it only features two major performers and only a handful of different sets. There are no special effects to speak of, and the most expensive and complicated scene is the opening, where a man is arrested for conducting a symphony orchestra in a field. The script is filled with digressions, but still feels tight. Ludig and Poelvoorde deliver absurd lines matter-of-factly, commenting on the hole in a detective’s torso or a man eating a whole oyster (shell and all) with nothing stronger than mild curiosity. They remain completely inside this world, never suggesting that they’re in on the joke. Everything seems to come easy to this movie.

This ease and emphasis on dialogue and subtly dreamlike situations puts me (and others) in mind of late (minus the social satire). There is a pleasing flow in the way the situation starts out offbeat, and keeps growing weirder and weirder. The interrogation of poor regular guy Fugain (Ludig, who only discovered the body and is obviously innocent of any crime) begins in medias res, with detective Buron (Poelvoorde) taking a break to schedule a social engagement over the phone while the hungry witness patiently waits to conclude the business so he can get dinner. Although the interrogation is odd, with Buron fixated on insignificant details and slowly typing up Fugain’s responses up in real time, things take a turn when the inspector asks his associate, a one-eyed policeman, to take over while he goes on (another) break. This leads to a  strange accident, which I won’t spoil except to say that it (potentially, at least) ups the movie’s stakes. Buron returns and the interrogation resumes, but we now see Fugain describing events in flashbacks—flashbacks which contain time paradoxes, because characters who could not have been on the scene show up and start interacting with his memories. Buron continues to be obstinately suspicious, while missing evidence of an actual crime that’s hiding in plain sight. But despite some suspense trappings, the script’s actually quite light and witty, and only loosely tethered to its police procedural structure.

Whereas Dupieux’s subsequent film, Deerskin (2019), is an examination of masculinity and an artistic self-reflection, Keep an Eye Out suggests no deeper themes beyond the desire to make you laugh. Rather than a symphony, the movie plays like a jazz solo, with Dupieux simply riffing on whatever crazy idea comes into his mind. The only off note comes at the very end, a reality shift that—once again—recalls Buñuel, but also suggests a writer admitting he has no way to end his story. Still, as a standalone bit, this “big reveal” actually works just fine. String together enough gags like that, and you could make a pretty entertaining movie out of it, actually.

Au Poste! was completed before Deerskin, but is being released in the U.S. a year later. Suddenly prolific director Dupieux already has two more in the pipeline: Mandibles (2020), a comedy about a giant fly, and the currently-in-production Incredible but True [Incroyable mais vrai].

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Many of these poker-faced absurdities are quite funny, and a few are so inspired that Dupieux might have done better to run with one of them, rather than serving up a smorgasbord of disconnected weirdness… This filmmaker’s madness could use just a little more method.”–Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: DEERSKIN (2019)

Le Daim

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Jean Dujardin, Adèle Haenel

PLOT: A middle-aged man becomes obsessed with his new deerskin jacket.

Still from Deerskin (2019)

COMMENTS: “Sorry, but isn’t your movie weird?” One suspects Quentin Dupieux lifted that line verbatim from his own life experiences for this screenplay. It’s one of many self-references in Deerskin, whose main character is a delusional fraud1 posing as an independent filmmaker while undergoing a midlife crisis.

Never fear, Deerskin—a movie about a man, a leather jacket, and the destructive pledge that binds the two together—is indeed a weird movie. But considering the manic maximalism of Dupieux’s last major outing—2014’s Reality, which seemed like it had about fifteen interweaving subplots in a dreams-inside-of-dreams structure—Deerskin is relatively restrained, focused on only two major characters and a single absurd conceit. In that sense, it’s almost a ian film. Indeed, aside from the odd opening (which will be explained later) and a scene of Jean Dujardin flushing his corduroy jacket down a public toilet, nothing beyond the moderately quirky occurs in the film’s first fifteen minutes. Dujardin’s character is clearly not all there, and occasional horror movie violin strikes suggest looming disaster, but it’s not until his deerskin jacket starts talking back to him that Dupieux leans into the scenario’s inherent eccentricity. The idea that we see the film from Dujardin’s insane perspective “explains” his strange activities for the rest of the movie, and perhaps makes it more palatable for general audiences not accustomed to the dream-logic universes Dupieux typically creates.

Dupieux likely slows down the craziness in order to take advantage of Dujardin’s presence. The stately actor is Deerskin‘s biggest asset, and the movie is almost Dupieux’s take on a character study. We suspect that the idea of an abstract, arty study of a man in the midst of an existential crisis is what attracted the French star to the project. Ruggedly handsome, if growing a bit paunchy, with a distinguished touch of grey in his beard, Dujardin creates a character who is deeply insecure and ridiculous—because he’s both vain and a bit dim. Unmoored and wandering, fleeing a relationship for reasons unstated, Dujardin gives his withered self-confidence a coat of luster with the deerskin jacket, which he believes gives him a “killer style” that everyone envies and talks about. But, in his mind, it’s not enough that he own the world’s coolest jacket—wouldn’t it be better if he owned the world’s only jacket?

The jacket concurs.

I don’t know if Deerskin‘s subdued style really fits Dupieux’s talents. He’s always been an over-the-top auteur with a unique voice, and his lack of restraint in focusing his ideas has always been a key part of that voice. I can’t say that maturity and self-reflection fits him any better than Dujardin’s too-tight jacket fits his character. Although Deerskin may be a bit easier for the neophyte to buy into than Dupieux’s previous larks, I’d still recommend the novice start off by jumping into the deep end with the slasher spoof Rubber, where the director sets out his bold manifesto of “no reason.” You can circle back to Deerskin later and see if you think the director is aging gracefully, or if he needs a truly wild midlife crisis of his own to remind him of his youth.

Deerskin is a victim of 2020’s pandemic, unable to receive even the usual limited release in theaters. Distributor Greenwich Entertainment is releasing it online and sharing half the revenue with the local theaters who would usually screen it; you can find a list of participating institutions at this link. The movie hits home video in late June.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“‘Deerskin’ is funny, weird and original; it features two charismatic stars, and it does everything it needs to do in only 77 minutes.”–Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle (contemporaneous)

220. REALITY (2014)

Réalité

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”–Philip K. Dick

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Kyla Kenedy, Jon Heder, Jonathan Lambert, Élodie Bouchez, , John Glover

PLOT: A young girl (improbably named “Reality”) spies a videotape inside the entrails of a wild hog her father shoots. Meanwhile, Jason, a French-speaking novice director, gets the green light for a screenplay he is working on about killer television sets, but only if he can find an Oscar-caliber scream of pain to insert in the film. Jason’s producer is also funding a fiction film from a former documentary director who, coincidentally, is using Reality as his lead actress, while the stressed would-be filmmaker finds he is having nightmares that are increasingly difficult to wake from.

Still from Reality (2014)
BACKGROUND:

  • Réalité, Quentin Duepieux’s fifth film, was a French/Belgian co-production. The story is set in southern California, although many of the characters primarily speak French.
  • Although Duepieux usually scores his own films, the only music in this film is a repeated phrase from Philip Glass’s “Music with Changing Parts.”
  • The male Award Presenter in Jason’s dream is Michel Hazanavicius, Academy Award-winning director of The Artist (the female Presenter is Rubber‘s ).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Jason’s recurring dream where he is at an awards ceremony, awaiting announcement of the award for best groan in movie cinema history. He’s the lone human in a sea of blank-faced mannequins in tuxes.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Viscera video; eczema on the inside; this film doesn’t exist yet

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In his short five film career, Quentin Dupieux has established a distinctive—and divisive—comic vision. His absurd sense of humor takes killer tires, dog-turd detectives, and electronica-snob cops and tosses them into twisted, self-aware scenarios. Reality sees him take a darker turn, venturing deeper into his subconscious, foraging for nightmares.


U.S. theatrical trailer for Reality

COMMENTS: In Reality, a mother reads a bedtime story to her Continue reading 220. REALITY (2014)

READER RECOMMENDATION: STEAK (2007)

Reader recommendation by Caleb Moss

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Ramzy Bedia, Johnathan Lambert

PLOT: After he is released from being institutionalized in a mental ward facility for seven years because he was accidentally framed for the murders committed by his high school friend Georges, Blaise is flung into a strange, incongruous near-future where 1950’s kitsch a la “Happy Days” and extreme body modification mingle together swimmingly.

Still from Steak (2007)
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Quentin Dupieux, as readers of this website are fully aware, has a young, idiosyncratic film career replete with odd meta-humor and other peculiarities. This sadly maligned debut feature is no different: it distinguishes itself through its mixture of ageless plastic surgery disasters, masochistic cricket bat gang rituals, wryly absurd dialogue, and very warped buddy comedy dynamic.

COMMENTS: Blaise is a very unfortunate, albeit slightly dimwitted, individual to be friends with the likes of Georges, who is by all accounts a superficial opportunist who carelessly places Blaise into predicaments that cause his mind to slowly unravel until he becomes a disfigured shadow of the loser Georges once was. If the previous description makes it sound as if Quentin Dupieux created something along the lines of a heart-wrenching melodrama, then fret not: this film is incredibly funny, sporting strange conversational oodles which skewer humor trends, clique culture, and even a few self-referential jabs at Quentin’s own career as an electronic musician. Also noteworthy is what may be some of the finest use of shallow focus framing in Quentin’s output, quietly transforming the bandage-wrapped, post-op profile of Georges into something distorted and rather unnerving.

This film features some of Quentin’s most ambitious sound production as well, pulling together fellow French electro collaborators Sebastian Tellier and SebastiAn on board to produce a consistently eccentric and addictive soundtrack which fades and swells in and out of the film’s oddity-rife tapestry.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“In many ways Steak is a much weirder film than Rubber.”–Rich Haridy, Rich on Film (DVD)