Tag Archives: Quentin Dupieux


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.

That’s Not Junk in the Trunk


by Hope Madden

The great thing about filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is that you always know what you’re in for and you definitely never know what you’re in for.

The point of Mandibles, essentially, is that you can never rely on anyone to do a single, simple thing correctly. Manu (Grégoire Ludig, Keep an Eye Out) — homeless at the moment — promises to deliver a suitcase in the trunk of his car from Michel-Michel to Point B. He needs to get it there by noon. Can he be trusted to do that one thing?

Of course he can!

He cannot.

There are the extenuating circumstances of the giant housefly that’s already in the trunk. We could get into what happens with the fly, but it’s not going to make any real sense, so why ruin it? Dupieux films work best when you just go with it.

That’s what Manu does. He and best friend Jean-Gab (David Marsais) take opportunities as they come, remain open to possibilities, and just enjoy their friendship. And their new, giant housefly.

The relatively streamlined plot delivers a fresh change of pace for the filmmaker—not that you could call any Dupieux film stale. But in pairing back the complications and convolutions, the writer/director has crafted maybe his most audience-friendly film to date. Mandibles certainly delivers the filmmaker’s most audience-friendly characters.

Ludig frustrates and charms in equal measure as the doofus Manu, and he and Marsais share an easy chemistry that suggests a lot of miles on this friendship. Here is the filmmaker’s most delightful surprise—a lack of cynicism or existential dread that leaves just an airy, almost sweet, wildly ridiculous comedy.

None of this has anything to do with a jawbone, but the title will become clear if you pay close attention.

Or maybe it won’t.

Quentin Dupieux, amiright?

Eye Spy

Keep an Eye Out

by Hope Madden

If there is one filmmaker whose movies resist summarization, it’s Quentin Dupieux. I have tried (Deerskin, Wrong).

His latest, Keep an Eye Out, takes us on a murder mystery in the most charmingly monotonous of ways. In fact, as Chief Commissioner Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde, Man Bites Dog) questions suspect Fugain (Grégoire Ludig), the officer complains that this is the most boring interrogation he’s ever done.

It’s not just the questioning (Fugain bought bug spray, then ate some potato chips, then accidentally knocked over a planter and broke it…) that’s mind numbing, though. Dupieux situates this aggressively dull conversation in a French police station leeched of color—everything in the room an unflattering shade of putty, except for the bizarre abundance of overhead lights.

It’s often tempting to seek symbolism in Dupieux’s absurd situations. Many of us are still wrestling with the message in his 2010 breakout, Rubber, about a discarded car tire on a nationwide killing spree.

Perhaps there’s no hidden meaning. In Keep an Eye Out, in particular, the filmmaker seems simply to be setting up jokes. As soon as Philippe (Marc Fraize) arrives on the scene—one eye on the accused, the other missing and grown over with skin—things take an almost Monty Python level of lunacy. It’s uncomfortably silly, stupid even.

There’s a freedom to the absurdism of a Dupieux film, although Keep an Eye Out feels far more superficial even than Deerskin (a film released prior to but filmed after Keep an Eye Out). Even his most focused work lacks the cynicism or bite of Yorgos Lanthimos, maybe the most consistent absurdist working in film today.

Which is not to say a Dupieux film can’t be as enjoyable. In many ways, they’re easier to enjoy than a Lanthimos film because they’re less likely to fill you with existential terror.

They’re weird. They’re delightfully unpredictable. They’d grow tiresome, but they’re all so short. (Keep an Eye Out runs barely longer than an hour.)

Killer Style


by Hope Madden

What makes a good midlife crisis? What gives it swagger? Physicality? Style? Maybe a little fringe?


Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist) is Georges, a man willing to pay an awful lot for a jacket—so much that his wife locks him out of their account. No matter, Georges will just hole up in this little French town, learn how to use the digital camera that came with his purchase, and spend some quality time with his new jacket.

If that sounds absurd, it should. You’ve just stumbled into the one-paragraph synopsis of the latest bit of lunacy from filmmaker Quentin Dupieux. As he did with 2010’s Rubber (a sentient tire on a cross-country rampage), Dupieux sets up one feature-length joke.

It’s funny, though.

Again the filmmaker draws hysterically deadpan, even confused performances from the many nameless characters supporting his leads. Adèle Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), playing town barkeep and would-be filmmaker, offers a wily and enjoyable counterpoint to Dujardin’s earnestness.

Aside from a couple of utterly priceless Dupieux flourishes, it’s Dujardin that sells this film. He’s deeply committed to the wildly wrong-headed internal logic of the film and the character. There’s an underlying sadness to it, and the willful obliviousness required of a character so willing to commit to a plan as ludicrous as Georges’s. He’s wonderful.

Deerskin is also slyly autobiographical in a way Dupieux’s other films are not. An odd duck wants to follow his vision (in this case, the obsessive love of a deerskin jacket) and make a movie. Creative partnerships and collaboration, while possibly necessary, also soil the vision and make the filmmaker feel dumb.

No one understands him!

Or maybe they do and his ruse is up.

No matter. He still has killer style.

For Your Queue: Rubber the Wrong Way

A gleaming gem of overt originality shines among the big budget, high concept releases this week. Filmmaker/madman Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong takes you places in search of existential understanding, and also Dolph Springer’s dog Paul. Columbus-born Jack Plotnick soars with deadpan humor and humanity as the dog lover at the center of this genuinely bizarre but forever fresh and fascinating piece of absurdism.

If Wrong suits your taste, by all means give Dupieux’s 2010 classic Rubber a chance. The film tells the tale of telepathic serial killer Robert, a Goodyear tire. Need we say more? We will, but only enough to let you know that despite the silliness, the film is never stupid, as Dupieux wittily examines the relationship between art and audience.

So, So Wrong

By Hope Madden

Quentin Dupieux’s feature film debut Rubber offered a character study, of sorts. The film took the point of view of a discarded car tire on a murderous rampage.


Wrong, his follow up effort, seems more straightforward: Dolph Springer (Columbus native Jack Plotnick, wonderful) has lost his dog, Paul. He wants to find him.

How might he find him? Perhaps with the help of a machine that reads the memories of dog shit.

The important thing to understand is that you’re not likely to understand what’s going on, and that’s OK. Dupieux does. Everything in every shot has been expertly placed to heighten both the sense of suburban familiarity as well as the feeling that all things here are askew.

It’s this level of utterly nonsensical lived-in logic that elevates Wrong far above spoof or satire, to a true place of artful absurdism.

Plotnick, as the audience’s vehicle through this madness, strikes the perfect balance between the regular Joe baffled by the insanity around him, and a willing participant. His understated, tender performance allows the weirdness to blossom around him without overtaking the character. He just wants to find his dog, dammit, and therefore, we do, too. Oh, Paul!

Not every piece of lunacy works. A love interest side story begins brilliantly, but as the tale spins onward, it creates an separate, less interesting but equally nonsensical narrative. One of these wildly spinning yarns is enough to keep track of, and Dolph and his dog are far more intriguing than not-Dolph and his girlfriend and that guy that keeps half painting cars.

I’m sorry, what?

Misfires aside, some elements (the opening sequence, in particular) are genius. Most of the characters – especially one cop character, played with fantastic zeal by Mark Burnham – are endlessly fascinating and could conceivably carry a film all their own. (Indeed, the spinoff Wrong Cops, starring Burnham, is Dupieux’s next film to be released.)

But there is no denying the enigmatic pull of this film. It’s as beautiful as it is odd, and Plotnick’s carries the lunacy so beautifully that you can’t look away.

The film may not suit everybody’s taste. It’s a comedy, and a funny one, but it casts a spell more than it tells a tale.  Still, there are absolutely no other films out there like those being made by Quentin Dupieux, which is reason enough to give Wrong a try.

3 1/2 stars (out of 5)