Original title: Au poste!
D: Quentin Dupieux / 73m
Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde, Grégoire Ludig, Marc Fraize, Anaïs Demoustier, Philippe Duquesne, Jacky Lambert, Orelsan, Jeanne Rosa, Vincent Grass
Late one night, the man who’s found a dead body outside his apartment block and reported it to the police, Fugain (Ludig), finds himself being interrogated by Superintendent Buron (Poelvoorde). Buron asks Fugain to repeat his previous statement, and to go into further detail by explaining his actions leading up to the discovery of the body. Fugain begins doing so, but has to leave the room for a while to meet his son (Orelsan). Buron leaves another officer, Philippe (Fraize), in charge, but when their conversation turns to homicidal matters that don’t relate to Fugain’s discovery, it leads to an unfortunate accident that Fugain needs to hide from Buron when he returns. Fugain continues to recount the events preceding his discovery of the body, most of which are prosaic and dull, something Buron is quick to point out. As the interrogation continues, Fugain becomes less and less of a suspect in Buron’s eyes, but when Buron’s boss, Champonin (Duquesne), pays him an unexpected visit, a chance discovery leads to Fugain being put on the spot, but not before something completely bizarre happens…
If you’re familiar with the work of Quentin Dupieux, then you’ll probably be thinking that whatever happens in Keep an Eye Out, it won’t be ordinary or commonplace. And you’d be right. But it takes a while for Dupieux for reveal just how quirky and unpredictable his latest movie is going to be. Throughout the opening sequence, which sees Buron taking time out from interrogating Fugain in order to arrange a get-together with one of his friends (and which is humorous enough by itself), we can see another man with his back to the camera. Buron gains his attention and the man turns in his chair to reveal his has no left eye. This is Philippe, and it’s in that moment that you know that whatever Dupieux has up his sleeve isn’t going to be like any other French comedy you’ve seen recently. From then on, the movie steps up a notch and Fugain’s increasingly uncomfortable situation becomes the stuff of quietly controlled farce. Badgered by Buron’s insistence on breaking down his whereabouts before discovering the body into minute, but boring detail, Fugain can only sit and wait for his ordeal to be over. As he keeps saying, he’s innocent. But events have superseded all this, and like all good farceurs, Dupieux delights in putting Fugain in more and more trouble.
As well as having some very witty and very sharp dialogue, the movie also trades on some visual tricks and anomalies that add to the proceedings, and which act as clues for the observant viewer that not everything is as it seems. And so it proves. At the point where Fugain seems finally in the clear, Dupieux delights in pulling the rug out under from under him, and then in a startling move that defies expectations, from under the viewer as well. It’s a moment of sheer audacity that only someone like Dupieux could pull off (or even think of). But it wouldn’t work half as well if it wasn’t for the characters, expertly devised and played by Dupieux’s talented cast. Poelvoorde is terrific as the deadpan, seemingly bored but dogged superintendent, while Ludig is a perfect foil as the upright man targeted because of a moment’s rash behaviour, but who becomes embroiled in something far worse. Fraize almost steals the show from both of them as Philippe, a recently appointed officer whose opinions about set squares have a particularly apt payoff. But to say more about this wonderfully droll movie and the odd tangents it takes us to would be to spoil things. Suffice it to say, it’s definitely one to watch.
Rating: 8/10 – another unconventional, but delightfully peculiar outing from the off-kilter imagination of Quentin Dupieux, Keep an Eye Out is funny, arresting, bizarre, and an absolute joy; more impactful as well due to its short running time, it’s a movie that’s so confidently assembled and handled that the fact that it’ll be difficult to see outside of its native France is a terrible state of affairs.