Features Live Action Movies


Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2023 – France – Cert. – 67m


An audience member, unhappy with the play currently being performed, hijacks it with a gun to write something more entertaining himself – on Mubi UK from Friday, April 5th

NSFW. Absolutely worth seeing.

A play, The Cuckold, is being performed at a two-thirds empty Paris theatre. In the play, the husband (Marmaï Pio from Daaaaaali!, Quentin Dupieux, 2023) had learned from his wife (Blanche Gardin from Smoking Causes Coughing, Quentin Dupieux, 2022) that she is seeing another man. Couldn’t she wait until the weekend to tell him?

Worse, the man is ill, having picked up some sort of stomach bug from Kenya. Finally, the man – Bruno (Sébastien Chassagne from Mars Express, Jérémie Périn, 2023; The Truth, Hirokzu Kore’eda, 2019; Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014) – comes back from the lavatory. The wife wants to leave with Bruno. The husband tries to talk him into staying. Perhaps a bite from the fridge? The wife doesn’t want him to open the fridge.

At this point, audience member Yannick (Raphaël Quenard from Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn, 2023; Smoking Causes Coughing) stands up. He objects to the play. He wanted something to help him forget his problems, not add to them.

With the performance stopped dead in its tracks, the cast tries to placate him. The lead actor offers him the director’s number. “Isn’t he here?!!”, asks a shocked Yannick, going on to complain that his evening has been ruined. After all, he had a 45-minute journey and a 15-minute walk to get there.

Eventually, the lead actor persuades him to leave. The cast make fun of him, and the audience seem to enjoy themselves a lot more than during the play earlier. Perhaps this is in part due to a sense of relief.

But they aren’t going to get rid of him so easily. Yannick changes his mind and comes back. Now he has a gun. His name, which the cast have forgotten, is Hebrew for “God is gracious.” He is not a marksman, but a parking attendant, so the gun he is holding could go off at any moment.

He asks if any audience member has a computer, and a man (Laurent Nicolas) offers his laptop. (The man soon regrets it, because he has to shout out the password for Yannick to gain access – it’s “Vaginal”.) And on – ahem – gaining entry, Yannick is most amused to find the desktop wallpaper consists of a girl on all fours in her panties, which he holds up to the audience.

Unfamiliar with computers, Yannick has to get Bruno to help him double-click the Word icon and types with one finger (refusing the lead actress’ offer to type while he dictates). When the front of house girl (Agnès Hurstel from Daaaaaali!) comes in, he sends her to get him a printer. She comes back with the emporium’s huge beast of a machine. He prints out the play he has written. The actors think it’s terrible.

Things go from bad to worse. The lead actress promises to sleep with the lead actor if he can get them out of this situation. They perform Yannick’s hastily written play. It is awful, yet makes the audience laugh. (The original play was scarcely a masterpiece.)

Quentin Dupieux (Deerskin, 2019; Smoking Causes Coughing, 2022; Daaaaaali!, 2023) is very much one of a kind, and is currently shaping up to be the funny man of contemporary cinema. He has an extraordinary gift for humour – the situations he creates, the things people say and do within them, the performances he gets out of (comic) actors, his sense of comic timing. Peel all that back, though, and there’s a lot more there.

I laughed a lot, but at the same time, the film is asking some very serious questions about art (for which read, art performed for an audience, for which in turn read, cinema). Who gets to make popular entertainment? Why are they more deserving than anyone else? Are they really any good? Who is to say that an unschooled member of the audience couldn’t do better?

Suffice to say, you probably wouldn’t want to see a play or a film by the author of The Cuckold, you might find one made by Yannick to be a breath of fresh air, and if it was the work of Quentin Dupieux, you know you’d be in very good hands. A movie which achieves more in its commendable 66 minutes than most movies do in two hours.

Yannick is on Mubi UK from Friday, April 5th.


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