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  Mandibles Pretty Fly For A White Guy
Year: 2020
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Stars: Gregoire Ludig, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos, India Hair, Romeo Elvis, Coralie Russier, Bruno Lochet, Raphael Quenard, Gaspard Auge, Thomas Blanchard, Philippe Dusseau, Olivier Blanc, Jean-Paul Solal, Jezabel Marques, Marie Narbonne, Dave Chapman
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Manu (Gregoire Ludig) is a petty criminal who takes life as it comes, though if it comes with the opportunity for a get rich quick scheme, then so much the better. He has been recruited by a local gangster to collect and deliver a suitcase from the mysterious Michel-Michel, someone he has never met, and will be paid a tidy five hundred euros for his trouble. First, of course, he must find some transport, but that’s easy enough done, simply try a few car doors until he hits on an open one and steal the vehicle. Along the way, he picks up his pal Jean-Gab (David Marsais) and soon the dimwitted duo are headed off to their - wait, do you hear something?

Something in the back of the car? On investigation, because this is a film written and directed by arch-weirdo Quentin Dupieux, they discover the least obvious thing nestled among some junk: a huge fly the size of the average pet dog, which is sitting there looking dazed. Though these are supposed to be hardened criminals we are watching, their hearts nonetheless melt at this unsettling but pathetic sight, and soon they are discussing how they could train said insect to act as a drone to pick up bundles of cash from banks for them, one of their schemes that sounds about as credible as having warm feelings towards a bloody big housefly you've uncovered in the car you've just stolen.

But this was Dupieux land, and it has no time for logic, you just have to go with it. Mandibles was assuredly one of his best works, so off-kilter that you knew half the people watching were not going to find any humour in it whatsoever, just as you were aware that the other half were going to find it so bizarre as to be utterly hilarious. Where his previous films tended towards an aggression in their premises, with this he was making towards an ending that was unexpectedly sweet, the whole story being a method of persuading the hapless pair that they really do not need to steal a fortune to be happy, since they have all they need in their existences anyway, and should be content with their lot.

Therefore, while the presence of a very convincing giant housefly puppet (operated by Dave Chapman, who did BB-8 in the latter Star Wars trilogy, and is a stalwart of British children's television) may test your tolerance for the disgusting implications of keeping such a thing as a pet (and naturally, we are never told where it came from), there were signs Dupieux was growing a little softer than his usual killer characters might recognise. Nobody dies this time, the fly remains unswatted, and the only character who sees this set-up as the crime against nature that it would have been is also the only one who ends up far worse at the conclusion than anyone else in the plot. She is Agnes, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos very much against type as a woman afflicted with a shouting voice.

Manu and Jean-Gab meet her when her friend Cecile (India Hair) invites them to her holiday home with pals, believing utterly erroneously that Manu is "Fred" who she attended college with and may have slept with too. Despite his farcical attempts to play along, she doesn't see through them, only Agnes does, and is ignored because of her loudness and cynicism. She could be regarded as a disabled character as her affliction stems from a skiing accident, but she was about as believable as any of this, operating on a register that cares nothing whether you found the proceedings convincing or not and indeed preferred if your suspension of disbelief flew out of the window early on. Like this director's other work, it was, shall we say, compact, but not a second was wasted, everything seemingly effortlessly geared towards reaching its gentle acceptance of your lot in life if that lot is really not so bad. Either that or just surprising the laughs out of you via sheer oddity. Music by Metronomy.

[This September Altitude is delighted to bring visionary French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's MANDIBLES both to the big screen on 17 September and on demand at altitude.film and other digital platforms from 20 September 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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