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The Bizarro Worlds of Quentin Dupieux’s Comedy


Quentin Dupieux’s offbeat comedies put people into bonkers situations and watch them do their best. And their best — God bless us — is usually pretty hopeless. In “Mandibles,” a pair of men discover a dog-size fly and take a look at to cover it of their automobile trunk. In “Deerskin,” a person (the Oscar winner Jean Dujardin) gets fixated on soft leather jackets and goes to murderous lengths to accumulate one.

The genius of those what-on-earth scenarios is that the actors play all of it straight. That makes for laughs, but there’s also a general circuit-frying glee at Dupieux’s unpredictable left turns. (Also fun: He casts French stars like Adèle Exarchopoulos and Benoît Magimel, happily going rogue.)

The director’s latest, “Smoking Causes Coughing” (in theaters), has a plot best described as “superheroes on vacation.” This Power Rangers-style squad often battles (very lo-fi) monsters, but they’re taking a while to regroup. (Their name? The Tobacco Force.)

On a recent video call, Dupieux talked about clips from five movies that inspired him — and crack him up. Below are his thoughts, condensed and edited.

It’s just amazing that a brain can provide you with this concept. It’s so smart and silly at the identical time. The toilets across the table is already something, but then the ultimate gag is that he locks himself in one other room to eat! Once you’re a filmmaker, this movie is the dream: You begin a story, you finish it quickly, you open the door and there’s a recent story. Sometimes movies are likely to be too scripted, and I like that on this movie you flip the principles and just tell the story exactly how you would like.

Once I was making my first short movies, my friend gave me a VHS tape of this movie, and it was a shock since it’s exactly what I used to be attempting to do. But I don’t just like the word “surreal” [for my films]. When these guys were making most of these movies, and when Salvador Dalí was making his art, surrealism meant something strong. It was an idea. Today, I actually have a sense the word has lost its magic meaning. At the identical time, I don’t have any other word! But why do we want a label?

Oh my God, I don’t have to click to look at because I’ve watched this scene so again and again. That is just the last word gag. I saw this in a movie show after I was a teen — I liked the poster, the cow with the boots — and I used to be amazed. So many creative visual ideas, simply to make you laugh. These guys were geniuses.

Sometimes you could have an idea like this and also you know it’s a nightmare to shoot. Like, come on — we’re not going to construct a rolling train station. And so they did it! Once they were doing “Airplane!,” “Top Secret!” and “Police Squad!” they were at their best. All the things is played straight, prefer it’s a serious movie. Val Kilmer is ideal for the part because he’s not purported to be funny. It cracks me up each time.

I just finished my recent movie, which is definitely about Salvador Dalí. And the reverse scene [in the bookstore in “Top Secret!”] was in my mind. So we shot a couple of scenes reversed. Which is hilarious to shoot — it’s a lot fun to do. And I understand it got here from “Top Secret!” because I’ve been obsessed for a few years: Why would they do this? Why is it so good? Why?!

I actually have a passion for Blake Edwards, for this era especially. He has a really specific comedic timing. No one ever did the identical pace of humor. And that’s on this scene: the old woman attempting to bring a tray. If I do it or if another person does it, it’ll not be half as funny.

It’s well-crafted. It’s not something they shot identical to that. For me a very powerful thing after I deal with a scene is the way in which the dialogue sounds, the music of the words. That’s how I construct my comedy timing. When a scene works well between actors, I don’t chop it to make it faster or whatever. I keep the human pace. When it appears like dialogue, prefer it’s written, then it’s not ok. Even in the event that they’re saying silly stuff, it has to sound prefer it’s real.

I’ve been in love with this movie. This one is more for the good filmmaking: the way in which it’s shot, the way in which it’s cut, the way in which they use the music, the way in which they use the crane, the Steadicam. Every technique! Hand-held cameras, wide angles. The Coen brothers at this era had crazy filmmaking. I saw this on TV after I was a child and it killed me.

For instance, when Nicolas Cage exits the shop and hears the cop, the camera does something. I feel it’s someone running in with the camera, hand-held. And it’s amazing, the sensation you get, just by the proven fact that it’s shaky. I attempted to do that again and again without success, since it’s not my thing. I like “Fargo,” too. A masterpiece. It’s a nightmare once you have a look at the most important character’s viewpoint. And for some reason, that’s enjoyable to look at!

My mind exploded. What the hell — is it possible to film this? Probably my taste for gory scenes and blood — silly blood — comes from Monty Python. They became popular in France through the films. I actually have to say [the French TV show] “Les Nuls” was the primary bible for us as kids. We realized later that they were highly influenced by Monty Python, the Zucker brothers and stuff like that. But we didn’t know and it was amazing to find this crazy recent comedy. They were mainly translating these English-speaking codes to a French audience. They did a five-hour parody program called “TVN 595” — crazy TV! It was freedom. You may tell that they had no rules.

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