Tag Archives: Anaïs Demoustier


Fumer fait tousser

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Smoking Causes Coughing is currently available for VOD rental.


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.


“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)


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Incroyable mais vrai


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… 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.


“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)


DIRECTED BY: Pascale Ferran

FEATURING: Josh Charles,

PLOT: Set at a hotel by Paris’ Orly Airport, the story follows an American businessman who suddenly decides to quit his job and a French maid who has an odd experience one night on her rounds.

Still from Bird People (2014)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s only half-weird (and only about half-good, too).

COMMENTS: Bird People has some strange concepts, an eccentric tone, and an unusual structure; just barely enough to keep it watchable through its long and slow 2+ hour runtime. It begins with a prologue in which we flit among various characters on a Paris commuter train, sometimes listening to their cell phone conversations, sometimes hearing their thoughts. They talk about their jobs or parties they’re going to; no one really has much of interest to say, or, if they might, we don’t get the opportunity to get to know them. Which, of course, is the point. What we have here is another of those Continental “cinema d’ennui” films about how modern life and technology destroy our interconnectedness (crucial life events are conveyed remotely, by an e-mail) and drain away our sense of wonder. As usual in this subgenre, the director wallows in the mundane in order to make her point, requiring enormous patience from the viewer as we watch characters smoke endless cigarettes (this is a French film, after all) or long takes of birds flying around. Whether you find your patience rewarded is up in the air; if you’re an arthouse patron, I’d guess the movie has about a fifty-fifty chance of success.

The film is divided into two halves. The first is straight dramatic realism, following Gary, a software engineer working for a small start-up firm. He’s mildly successful and upwardly mobile; he owns a major block of stock in the company but still needs to do hands-on work, meaning that he must stop-over for a night in Paris to take a meeting while on his way to Dubai to work on a power plant project. While sleeping in his hotel room he has an anxiety attack and abruptly decides that he wants to quit it all; his job, his family, the stress, and simply start his life over in his Paris hotel room with no plan. It’s a rare leading role for accomplished character actor Josh Charles, whom we both envy (because what slave to the dollar [or Euro] hasn’t daydreamed about chucking it all and starting fresh?) and disapprove of (because the script doesn’t gloss over the way he leaves his coworkers and wife in a bind—one of the movie’s most alive sequences is the painful conversation where he breaks up with his wife over Skype). The second half of the film dwells on maid Audrey (an appealing Anaïs Demoustier) as she makes her dismal rounds, and here is where the magical part of the movie’s magical realism happens. We won’t spoil the surprise as to what happens in her storyline. Neither will we guarantee that you’ll be blown away by its poetry. The contrast between airplanes and birds makes for an interesting metaphor, but while the film boasts good performances, cinematography, and other scattered points of interest, Bird People never really takes off.


“The surrealism stands in stark contrast with the stripped-down naturalism that has come before, and it is in this stretch that the film finally leaves terra firma and takes flight.”–Peter Debruge, Variety (contemporaneous)