Tag Archives: Gilles Lellouche


Smoking Causes Coughing

by Hope Madden

The narratives of brilliant French filmmaker Claire Denis tend to skip over dramatic highpoints in favor if those moments most filmmakers would ignore. She tells the same story but uses this device to undermine expectations and develop character. In Denis’s hands, it’s a brilliant approach that’s delivered many exceptional films: Trouble Every Day, High Life, 35 Shots of Rum, Let the Sunshine In and so many more.

In his own way, French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux does the same. He certainly does with his latest piece of absurdity, Smoking Causes Coughing, a high concept robbed of its drama and left with Dupieux’s favorite moments. The banal ones.

Costumed avengers Tobacco Force work as a team, each adding their unique gift to a combined weapon strong enough to bring down any enemy – or at least any kaiju in a rubber suit. The whole ordeal is only funnier when the helmets come off and some of the biggest names in French film spend an entire movie dressed like Power Rangers.

Nicotine (Anaïs Demoustier), Ammonia (Oulaya Amamra), Mercury (Jean-Pascal Zadi), Benzene (Gilles Lellouche) and Methanol (Vincent Lacoste) seem to be falling apart. Mercury’s powers were weak last time because he wasn’t sincere enough, and now the Chief (a particularly foul if amorous rat puppet voiced by Alain Chabat) thinks their team lacks cohesion.

And what a time to fall apart! Intergalactic supervillain Lezardin (Benoît Poelvoorde) is planning to eliminate Earth for being uninteresting.

Rather than follow the strategies and preparations, or even the battle itself, Dupieux sets his tale during the weeklong forced retreat where the team builds cohesion and shares campfire stories. The superhero film then becomes, essentially, the framing device for an absurdist’s horror anthology.

What is it all about? The ridiculousness of storytelling, of distracting yourself from life, and the insidious way capitalism influences both your life and your distraction from life?

I have no idea. But if you like Quentin Dupieux movies, you’ll no doubt enjoy this one. It’s less inspired than 2010’s Rubber, less endearing than 2020’s Mandibles. But Smoking Causes Coughing kicks expectations in the ass and has a fine time making moviemaking the butt of its joke.

Crimes and Punishment


by Tori Hanes

Two full hours of grit, sweat, and anxiety from all participants, both in the film and out. That’s what you can expect from the latest by director Jerome Salle. 

Kompromat is one of those unnerving instances for reviewers where your technical training and study of film confuses your internal perception. The film excels where it is meant to: it’s tense to the point of unbearable anxiety. It’s forcibly eye-opening, and it’s nauseatingly realistic. Lead actor Gilles Lellouche gives a standout performance as a grounded, gritty, desperate, resourceful anti-hero. The story, while seemingly convenient at times, builds masterfully while swerving down winding thoroughfares. 

The viewing experience itself can be defined as less than pleasant. While Salle succeeds at delivering a hard-to-watch movie, he also creates… a hard-to-watch movie. 

With something so viscerally unsettling, you might expect your worldview to be heightened as a result of the painstaking two hours spent. Kompromat doesn’t exactly succeed in this – it paints the illustration of a wrongly accused straight, white, French man in Russia’s highly unprogressive society. All facts and facades we’ve seen at play before. So it begs the question, what is the point?

The point, quite bluntly, seems to be tension. Building it, releasing it, savoring it. If the film makes you break a sweat, the crew can pat themselves on the back.

Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. Draping the background with a seemingly pressing political story convolutes the film’s actual intention. If Kompromat could be obvious in its goal, a more palpable connection between audience and film could be forged. Instead, there seems to be some thrashing in the netting Salle creates.

While Kompromat excels at holding a consistent fever pitch, it allows itself too much freedom. The two-hour runtime feels like a dumbbell lowering suffocatingly onto your chest. The film’s consistency in story and performance through the overly long run is a testament to Salle’s command of scene and pace but shows a streak of overindulgence. 

If your New Year’s resolution is to elevate your heart rate for 2 hours at a time, pick this up. If breaking a sweat while sitting on your couch isn’t appealing, you may want to skip out on Kompromat