By Alex Gehrlein ’19
We open on a man in the middle of a field, wearing nothing but a speedo, conducting an orchestra. It will only get stranger from there.
Quentin Dupieux has made a name for himself in creating strange, surreal comedies with an underlying dark edge to propel them forward. If you’ve heard of any of Dupieux’s work, it is most likely Rubber, his unbelievable 2010 horror comedy about a telepathic car tire and its rampage on a small town. Aside from Rubber and Keep an Eye Out, I can’t speak to his other films, but I believe he is breaking new ground by reviving a style of filmmaking we don’t get to see much of anymore: the surrealist comedy.
The most famous surrealist filmmaker is inarguably Luis Buñuel, whose acclaimed comedies shattered what an audience could expect from a moviegoing experience, while keeping to a relatively playful tone. The direct comparisons are pretty weak from Buñuel’s films to Rubber, but the tonal similarities are still somewhat there when you look through the subversive take on genre conventions. Keep an Eye Out left me thinking of many of Buñuel’s best, from The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie to The Exterminating Angel, with its various plot twists and structural reworkings.
This is all a long way of saying that I really enjoyed what Dupieux did with the film, and felt that it resonated with the most memorable work of one of my favorite directors. I was lucky enough to watch it before the screenings at CIFF, and would highly recommend anyone thinking of going to the festival check this one out.
Keep an Eye Out is a simple film in many ways, but not so much in others. A police officer (Benoît Poelvoorde) must spend a long night interrogating an adamantly innocent suspect (Grégoire Ludig). Neither one is aware of what the other is really doing, and a sparring of the wits comes about, each player hiding a secret that would ruin their chances of winning if revealed. Most of the action takes place through some expertly crafted dialogue, which doesn’t reach for obvious jokes, but is instead funny if you read into the purpose of each line. There are no grand comedic setpieces (excluding the nearly inexplicable opening), but the laughs are earned and come frequently.
To go into detail would ruin the film. I expect the ending to be the most controversial choice Dupieux makes with the film, and that it could easily kill your enjoyment of the latter half if taken too seriously. For me it did not. There are certain flaws with the movie’s logic that are meant to confound you, meant to make you scratch your head, meant to make you ask why anyone would think to do that in a film. This is why Keep an Eye Out is so much fun: like its characters, it does not put all its cards on the table, and is willing to leave the audience asking questions.