After making a fair amount of acclaimed music Quentin Dupieux’s debut film Rubber was one of those films which divided audiences, with some despising it with a passion that’s almost disturbing and some adoring in an equally fervent manner. I fall in to the latter category and have been enormously enamoured with the other films he’s made too, and have posted glowing reviews of Au Poste and Le Daim over the last couple of years.
Perhaps due to being such a fan of his work that at some point I’d inevitably be disappointed by something he produced as expectations were so high, yet for a long time he managed to avoid this situation, though alas with his latest film, Mandibles I find myself for the first time only quite liking something by the man. It’s a curious film, if you’ve seen any of Dupieux’s other films you’d expect something unpredictable, and that’s once again the case here but it’s an unusual case where while the set up is quite outrageous what actually then takes place isn’t and with Dupieux normally the opposite applies.
Following two rather skeezy guys, Jean-Gab (David Marsais) and Manu (Grégoire Ludig), they’re mildly shitty sorts who take advantage of others and commit petty crimes, though despite that Dupieux makes them likeable enough as they’re clearly not the smartest. Early on Manu is asked to steal a car and deliver a suitcase without examining its contents, only to discover in the boot of the stolen car a very, very large fly about the size of a dog.
After showing it to Jean-Gab they decide that they’ll train the fly to commit crimes for them, which again highlights just how they aren’t ever going to be criminal masterminds, but what’s surprising is how minor an aspect of the film this is. It mainly sees the two trying to find somewhere to stay while they attempt to carry out their strange old plan, and most of the time it’s them travelling around as if this was a very low key road trip movie, until they spend most of the third act at the house of a woman who mistakes Manu for an old school friend.
Manu and Jean-Gab have some amusing exchanges as they gently lurch from location to location, and the people they meet along the way are sometimes amusing. But the laughs are only mild the majority of the time, and the highlight of the film is whenever the enormous fly is on screen, so it’s frustrating that most of the time it isn’t and we only get to see the two men acting like idiots.
Perhaps this is an overly negative review due to my fondness for Dupieux’s work and if this was the debut of a new filmmaker I’d rate it higher. But Dupieux has proven time and again just what he’s capable of so to come out with what’s essentially a very gentle buddy comedy is a disappointment. As with his other films it does at least have a strong ending, but that just made me wish that the rest of it was quite as audacious.