Keep An Eye Out! (Quentin Dupieux, 2018) – Ithaca Fantastik 2018

Designed for the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving these movies the love and attention they deserve.

TO THE POLICE STATION!

When Louis Fugain (Grégoire Ludig) finds a dead body in front of his apartment building in the middle of the night, he makes a terrible mistake and reports it to the police. Obsessive police superintendent Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde) makes Fugain his chief suspect, leading to an absurd, all-night interrogation set in a campy ’70s police station and Fugain’s increasingly compromised memories. Soaked in dark humor and bloody fun throughout, Quentin Dupieux’s latest opus, Keep An Eye Out!, is a twisted celebration of classic French police procedurals through the lens of his own nonsensical brand of quirky, offbeat humor, performed by France’s most refreshing comedic talents.

Special Features:

French electronic musician and filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (best known for his 2010 meta-comedy Rubber, about a killer tire that uses telekinetic powers with Scanners-like explosive force) would have been an unlikely candidate for a Shout Select release five months ago but with the announcement of Leos Carax’s intensely strange Holy Motors (2012) back in August, it seems like the gloves are now off – at least for Gallic case-studies in patent cinematic absurdity. With that in mind, let MMC! propose Dupieux’s latest work and first French language feature film, Keep An Eye Out! for Shout Selection.

An MMC! favourite of the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik, Keep An Eye Out! portrays the extensive questioning of Louis Fugain (Grégoire Ludig, one half of the French comedy duo the Palmashow) by Inspector Buron (Man Bites Dog‘s Benoît Poelvoorde) in a wonderfully Brutalist, ’70s-styled police station. Fugain has made the mistake of reporting a dead body found outside his apartment building, with Buron considering him a primary suspect and in no hurry to wrap up his questioning of Fugain. When he’s left alone with a hapless and paranoid one-eyed officer named Philippe (played by risk-taking, absurdist comedian Marc Fraize), Fugain finds himself with another dead body on his hands and hides the misfortune, aware that Buron is unlikely to consider the event a coincidence. Keep An Eye Out! recalls classic French policiers like Claude Miller’s Under Suspicion (1981) while also undermining its fundamentally rationalist enterprise. Dupieux’s films celebrate life’s meaninglessness, what he calls “le grand n’importe quoi” (“the great whatever” or “the big complete nonsense”), and his latest film is no less ridiculous that his previous work.

The director’s affinity for randomness and the bizarre is characteristic to his work, although it might be observed that Keep An Eye Out! offers a less gory and spectacular brand of Dupieux’s surrealism, preferring comedy that tends toward something more dialogue-driven and interpersonal. Speaking about his most recent film, Dupieux acknowledges his avant-garde influence and his revised approach here:

Buñuel is so fundamental that I would find it abnormal not to go through him. He opened a lot of doors and allowed so much freedom. Without having really researched his writing methods, I believe that I follow them a little: I leave first a large part to the unconscious, the surreal ideas that fall from the sky, then, with all that, I build a coherent narrative… So far, all my films are built like nightmares… In Keep An Eye Out, it’s a softer nightmare, in which you feel good, but it’s still the story of a guy who experiences things he does not understand…

Naturally, Dupieux’s film is full of Dupeiux-esque gags – anomalous physicalites like a one-eyed man, the eating of an oyster shell, and cigarette smoke escaping from a hole in a man’s chest – but it also includes a bizarre, screwball-like loquaciousness – a semantic debate over whether or not men can “freeze their tits off,” a running joke on the overuse of the term “actually,” and the questioned significance of a crime scene photo featuring a brick wall and a toe that may or may not resemble a penis. Keep An Eye Out! does have grander comedic set pieces, including its opening scene of an orchestra being conducted at an outdoor performance by a wanted man wearing only a tiny Speedo, but it is the movie’s two-handed banter that remains its primary focus. The film’s trailers offer representative samples of Dupieux’s overall enterprise, including its primary trailer where Buron questions Fugain about Keep An Eye Out! itself and makes notes on its cast and tagline and a second trailer providing a montage of the “actually” joke (anglophones can simply listen for the recurring phrase “pour ça”). Dupieux and his all-star cast (including Ludig, Poelvoorde, Fraize, Anaïs Demoustier as a curly-haired woman searching for her husband in unlikely locales, Philippe Duquesne, rapper Orelsan, and director Michel Hazanavicius in a cameo) make the most of Au poste!‘s brief 73 minute running time and create something that is consistently funny and surprising throughout.

Keep An Eye Out!‘s greatest twist is a fourth wall breaking move that occurs late in the film, a stratagem that extends beyond Dupieux’s proclivity for meta-comedy awareness and explores the law’s uneasy reliance on performance. After all, going to court is ultimately about proof, not truth. You can be as true and accurate as you like, but if you can’t get a judge to believe you, if you can’t provide corroboration to support your truth, then the truth fails to become compelling. Fugain tries to tell his story to Buron but he is frequently interrupted, often within his own flashback. Characters with no place in his memories hijack his accounts, create nonexistent tangents, or, in the case of Buron, simply decry a lack of entertainment value and lament their boredom. Keep An Eye Out! collapses the frivolousness of entertainment into the role of narrativization and storytelling in the law, then renders it farcical with Buñuelian absurdity. To use Dupieux’s own terminology, Au poste! presents a soft legal nightmare with Fugain floundering against Buron’s comically Kafkaesque legal authority, something decidedly silly but still under the threat of state-sectioned violence. Replace goofiness with tragic irony and Keep An Eye Out! quickly becomes an episode of Black Mirror.

For those attuned to Quentin Dupieux’s very strange and eccentric brand of humour, Keep An Eye Out! is a wordy, character-driven, somewhat subdued, and strongly French-take on his uncomfortably wacky style and the film might find an audience with the Shout Select label on the back of its Holy Motors release. MMC! would certainly welcome space being made within Shout Select for these quirky and unusual films that fall outside the horror, art house, and classic film domains of most hard media labels, particularly when those films originate from international markets. A few other such titles come to mind, so maybe they might make appears here at MMC! looking for Shout Selection of their own. Until then, we have Dupieux’s never-ending interrogation to keep us company.

Credits: The audio commentary, rehearsals, and hidden bonus content are all taken from the French Blu-ray release of Keep An Eye Out! The cover synopsis is developed from summaries provided at Fantastic Fest and Ithaca Fantastik. This post owes thanks to reviews by Andrew Todd for Birth. Movies. Death., Jordan Mintzer for The Hollywood Reporter, Haleigh Foutch for Collider, Vince Mancini for Uproxx, Eric Ortiz Garcia for Screen Anarchy, Nick Johnston for Vanyaland, and Eric D. Snider for Crooked Marquee.

This post supports MMC!‘s seemingly never-ending coverage of the 2018 Ithaca Fantastik. Actually, MMC! has one more post in mind to wrap up our coverage of Ithaca Fantastik and serve as our final proposal of the year. Thanks again, IF!

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