Tag Archives: Quentin Dupieux

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING (2022)

Fumer fait tousser

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Smoking Causes Coughing is currently available for VOD rental.

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Gilles Lellouche, , Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra, Vincent Lacoste, voice of

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 ’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)

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)