From super-heroes to Dali

It’s a mad world according to Smoking Makes You Cough director Quentin Dupieux

by Richard Mowe

Super-heroes in leather “spandex": Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist extravaganza Smoking Makes You Cough
Super-heroes in leather “spandex": Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist extravaganza Smoking Makes You Cough Photo: UniFrance
With a reputation as a unique and flamboyant voice in French cinema Quentin Dupieux - talking up this 12th feature Smoking Makes You Cough with another on the horizon - feels he has reached an enviable plateau.

“I am now at the stage where I can write whatever I want in the knowledge that I will find some nice people to join me on the journey,” he says beaming. “I have actually been able to make at least three movies with good budgets. Now I have that status I am not going to let it go. I am forcing the industry to take note: I keep saying I have another one and now here’s another one. At some point it will end, so I know it is now or never.”

A self-declared master of the absurd, Dupieux - whose Smoking Makes You Cough screens at Glasgow Film Festival this week - has worked with some of France’s top acting talents, among them Edouard Baer, Gilles Lellouche, Jean Dujardin, Pio Marmai, Jonathan Cohen, Pierre Niney, Anaïs Demoustier and Alain Chabat. Chabat has starred in two of Dupieux’s recent releases Incredible But True and the latest Smoking Makes You Cough (Fumer fait tousser). Demoustier also has joined the clan on these two features as well as the upcoming Daaaaaali! in which she plays a journalist trying to make a documentary about the surrealist Spanish artist - but never quite getting there. Just to add to the allure Dupieux reveals that five actors will play Dali.

For Smoking Makes You Cough Dupieux fields a group of spandex-clad, cigarette-toting superheroes on a rural retreat, intended to recharge their powers.

Dupieux, who admits to vaping rather than smoking, suggests the germ of the idea came from a pretty bad Japanese movie about a kid going through a book and discovering four stories. “I wanted to do something like that which is how I cam to create the set-up for the super-heroes. “My only goal was to put them around the campfire and have them talk to each other and start telling stories. That was the starting point. I wanted to make a movie with a small movie inside,” he says.

Quentin Dupieux: 'I am now at the stage where I can write whatever I want in the knowledge that I will find some nice people to join me on the journey'
Quentin Dupieux: 'I am now at the stage where I can write whatever I want in the knowledge that I will find some nice people to join me on the journey' Photo: UniFrance
“The costumes also were based around “some old school Japanese films - I don’t even remember the titles but we found them online and wanted to transform them into something a little fancier. We spent a lot of time making them and we used real leather because we wanted them to be special. The actors found them awkward to wear because leather is not that breathable.”

He relished working with Demoustier, who he describes as “never scared and never bored”. He adds: “When we shoot she is always perfect and never misses a line but even if she goes in the wrong direction she is still good. She has an amazing power and is hungry for work. That’s why I gave her the main character in the Dali film.”

He hopes it may be ready for Cannes. “It is almost like the way Monty Python would make a film about Dali. The guardians of Dali’s estate enjoyed the script and at the end of the process we will show them the movie and they will say they like it or not, but in the end they cannot stop us showing it. It is definitely not the usual biopic.”

The Parisian-born director whose wacky reputation revolves around such titles as Steak, Rubber, Reality, Mandibles and Deerskin, used to be better known as cult techno DJ Mr Oizo. His throbbing Flat Beat, soared to No 1 in the UK charts thanks to Mr Oizo’s partner in crime, Flat Eric, a dishevelled yellow puppet who appeared in a series of Levi’s adverts in the late 90s.

Gille Lellouche in Smoking Makes You Cough. Quentin Dupieux: 'My main goal is to entertain the audience. I don’t want to shock or bore you'
Gille Lellouche in Smoking Makes You Cough. Quentin Dupieux: 'My main goal is to entertain the audience. I don’t want to shock or bore you' Photo: UniFrance
He lived in the States for seven years when he had to speak English to survive. “They don’t speak much French in LA. I loved staying there for the weather, the outdoor life and the smiling people. And that’s it. I would go back for those reasons but after seven years, I felt it was time to go back to France. It’s nice but it is easy to see yourself becoming absolutely crazy when you live there. You have to drive everywhere - in seven years I had ten cars, as I mentioned! They are obsessed with cars and also the social life is scary. You have to plan something like ten days in advance just to set up a dinner. At 9.30pm everyone is gone because it is so late!”

His driving impetus remains simple: “My main goal is to entertain the audience. I don’t want to shock or bore you. Because I’m exploring some weird zones then obviously some people do feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I write a joke, I film it then when I see it in the film I decide to cut it because to me it is a joke but nobody reacts. If that is the case, it is not a joke. I am trying honestly to make you laugh. That is top of my list: I want my films to be funny and if you don’t laugh I have failed and it is my problem. In any case, see you in Cannes for Dali,” he says. Clearly it’s a wrap.

Glasgow Film Festival: Smoking Makes You Cough, 9 March, 18.30, GFT1. On release later this year through Picturehouse Entertainment.

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