Smoking Causes Coughing 2023 Movie Review
We have seen it in the prolific production of Quentin Dupieux (five feature films in four years): the fanatic does not lack fantastic ideas when it comes to describing stories. His films are short, stretch a concept without necessarily concluding it, and move on to a new delirium. Smoking makes you cough is no exception to the recipe, and even seems to speed it up: rather than focusing on a preposterous idea, you might as well multiply them within stories in abyss that can happily drift into the fertile lands of the absurd.
The framework story which reinvests the warm strangeness of Provence already visited in Mandibles will be just as delirious as the sketches to come: a team from the Tabac Force, directly inspired by the Super sentai imagery fights a mutant turtle in latex before seeing each other going green to work on team cohesion. The occasion, after hemoglobin baths and a rather tasty vintage pastiche, of a meeting around a campfire and a Decameron-type variation, where each member of the group will propose his story. The opportunity, also, to further expand an already prestigious cast, through framed stories that will see everything that French comedy cinema has trendy, or eager to be.
The delirious humor of Dupieux finds here a new impetus, and tightens over 80 minutes multiple motifs which, as often, need no explanation, between a drooling Rat with the voice of Chabat and a supermarket fridge: the rules of this parallel universe are to be taken as such, and any viewer familiar with the filmmaker knows this full well. The use of secondary stories nevertheless provides a structure reminiscent of that of fantastic short stories, in which the strange arouses a form of anxiety: stories to scare, in short, a feeling coveted by heroes who have become aware that their status makes impossible to defeat. Over the course of these digressions, a kind of melancholy tinged with a perennial black humor sets in, addressing eco-anxiety, devouring by the machine or the fear of finding oneself alone with one’s thoughts.
Dupieux never wanted us to interpret his delusions, nor to plaster any discourse on his writing; the fact remains that, consciously or not, his entire community is putting up a good face in the face of all the signs of collapse: even the cooking barracuda quietly continues to tell its story, as if fiction remained the last resort to agree to continue living. Anxiety (the instability of reality in Réalité , obsession in Le Daim , the flight of time in Incroyable mais vrai) was already present in his writing, but here it takes on a more marked turn, especially since it is certainly illustrated in the absurd and black humor (the massacre under a tarpaulin, the mouth in a bucket of blood…), but also through clearly tender portraits of the characters. Love stories, family relationships and the famous team cohesion make it possible to give a stake to the threat of apocalypse, which comes to relaunch what had only been illustrated in the framed stories: destruction is not no longer an additional pirouette, but cause for alarm. And the reassuring escapes of fiction are followed by a change of time in suspense which will come to reinforce this disturbing strangeness, reviving with a certain charm the unbridled imagination of the filmmaker.