Smoking Causes Coughing
Stars: Gilles Lellouche, Anaïs Demoustier, Vincente Lacoste, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra
The latest from singular oddball French writer-director Quentin ‘Deerskin’ Dupieux is a slight at 77 minutes, but consistently droll take on the superhero genre.
We first encounter the spandex-clad Tobacco Force - dashing leader Benzène (Lellouche), ostensible mother figure Nicotine (Demoustier with Leslie Judd wig), sensitive, hulking Mercure (Zadi), emo-ish Methanol (Lacoste) and upbeat Ammoniaque (Amamra) - fighting a giant malevolent rubber turtle, and getting covered in offal in the process. After being hosed down by faithful robot Norbert, they receive a video message from Chief Didier, their rodent-like boss who looks like a cross between Roland Rat and a Muppet aardvark, but speaks in a stentorian voice (provided by Alain Chabat) with a constant trail of green goo dribbling from his mouth. In the film’s funniest conceit, Didier proves irresistible to women. He tells the team that their esprit de corps has been suffering of late due to ego issues, so he has decided to send them to a retreat for a bonding exercise. He also issues them with an updated, supposedly improved, Norbert.
At the futuristic retreat, the completive, needy Tobacco Force try and outdo each other with scary stories, some of them dramatized on screen. Local campers and a cooking barracuda also drop in to relate a couple of tales. The most amusing and lengthiest features an unassuming young man who has a gory accident with a mechanical grape presser.
The picture sports an endearingly cut-price 80s aesthetic, replete with Power Rangers-style suits, wilfully rubbish monster suits and video era technology, capped off with an appropriately retro squelchy synth score.
The plotting is loose to the extent that this feels more like a series of absurdist sketches than straightforward narrative. Nevertheless, Dupieux maintains a chucklesome tone of surreal humour & pathos throughout, while the cast, which also includes game cameos from Adèle Exarchopoulos and Benoît Poelvoorde, play it admirably straight. The cliffhanger ending is so inconsequential, it plays like a spoof on cliffhanger endings, yet still leaves you wanting more.
Smoking Causes Coughing is released on 7th July
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