Review: Keep an Eye Out
by Fabien Lemercier
- The original and playful director Quentin Dupieux returns with a comedy on the borders of order, disorder, the realism of dreams, banality and weirdness
You could potentially create some sort of slogan from Garde à vue meeting Buffet froid, if it was at all possible to classify the unclassifiable director Quentin Dupieux, as illustrated by Keep an Eye Out [+see also:
film profile], the new film by the very offbeat director of Steak [+see also:
film profile], Rubber [+see also:
film profile] (Cannes Critics' Week in 2010), Wrong [+see also:
film profile] (in competition at Sundance in 2012), Wrong Cops [+see also:
film profile] (Piazza Grande at Locarno in 2013) and Reality [+see also:
film profile] (Horizons section at Venice in 2014). In a feature film as zany as ever that marks the director’s return to the French language, the filmmaker has nevertheless embarked on an interesting and subtle variation of his exploration of absurd realism. Unveiled in world premiere at La Rochelle International Film Festival and released in French cinemas by Diaphana, the feature film, which stars the excellent Gregoire Ludig and Benoît Poelvoorde, effectively reveals itself as a feat of astonishing precision engineering, subverting typical genre film signifiers (the classic face-to-face between a police officer and suspect, flashbacks) in order to gradually instil a sense of strangeness – occasionally interrupted by quick quips – in order to dissect banality to the point of the extreme and create a new dimension to cinema that disrupts all sense of time and all points of reference.
"It's going to be a long night," "How did you know that the corpse was dead?" In his office, Commissioner Buron (Poelvoorde) interrogates the moustached Fugain (Ludig), who has discovered the body of a man in the street at the foot of his building. The cop tries to clarify the sequence of events, while the witness admits to having been involved in the mess. And so, the scene is set: a confined space decorated in beige hues, a typewriter, a cosy atmosphere, a languid tempo. A verbal game of ping-pong commences as Fugain is forced to explain why his neighbour, an elderly woman-cum-peeping-tom, saw him leave his home seven times during “the night of the death.” The suspect revisits each round trip via a series of flashbacks, plunging us into his entirely banal everyday life (forgetting his wallet, buying some insecticide, a trip to get some fresh air, a flower pot falling from the balcony, a woman sleepwalking, a badly-parked car, etc.). But the situation suddenly becomes somewhat more tricky for Fugain when Buron's subordinate, one-eyed policeman Philippe (Marc Fraize), tasked with sussing out the suspect in the temporary absence of his chief, is killed by accident (by a shelf bracket!). And so, we find ourselves with a corpse hidden in the closet, quite literally, while the interrogation resumes, with the event creating temporal interferences with Fugain's story (including the sudden entrance of Philippe's wife, brought to life by Anaïs Demoustier). The funny plot (written by the director) slowly descends into the absurd, with plenty of twists and turns to follow…
Riding on the coattails of some exquisite dialogue, a slightly unhinged atmosphere cradled by a dreamlike sensation and an unusual strange tempo, Keep an Eye Out is a comedy bathed in paradox, an exercise in style that methodically strips away the bark of realism to extract, drop by drop, a pulp of very original humour, a purely ‘buenuelienne’ test that may not always be easily noticed by lovers of more direct comedy (although the film isn’t lacking in its fair share of comical moments), but that instead represents the beautiful demonstration of controlled nonsense and entirely insane structures.
(Translated from French)
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