Mandibles

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Mandibles
"This whole film isn't just about but on the fly, with Dupieux never letting the pace slip for so much as a few seconds of the short running time."

Surreality may not bite but it definitely buzzes all over the place in the latest from Quentin Dupieux - who follows up his tale of a serial killing jacket lover, Deerskin, with the offbeat story of two hapless but sweet bros who come across a giant fly and decide to try to tame it. One of our antiheroes, Manu (Grégoire Ludig), looks like a bug in a rug himself when we first spot him in a sleeping bag on the beach. Why Manu, who is a one-part Jeff Daniels' Harry, one part Jeff Bridges' The Dude and one-part Keanu Reeves' Ted, is there is anybody's guess as is the reason why anyone would hire him to make a €500 special delivery of a suitcase - but then, it's that sort of film, and as always with Dupieux, you just know there will be a punchline sparkling somewhere along the way.

The first problem with the delivery job is that Manu doesn't have a car to make the drop with - something he must have as he's under strict instructions to put the case within a boot - so he quickly nicks one, before persuading his equally nice but dim pal Jean-Gab (David Marsais) to come along for the ride. But their plans turn on a dime after the strange buzzing from the boot turns out to be a giant housefly, all thoughts of €500 paling in comparison to Jean-Gab's master plan, namely to name the fly Dominique and train her to become a bank thief.

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This whole film isn't just about but on the fly, with Dupieux never letting the pace slip for so much as a few seconds of the short running time. In fact, timing is everything, from the banter between Manu and Jean-Gab, punctuated by a charmingly ridiculous "Toro" handshake every time they manage to succeed at something, to the carefully placed encounters the pair have. Ludig and Marsais have a history of TV double-act work together, so they bounce off one another like bugs off a window. And if everything the doofus duo touch goes awry, somehow, these fly guys just keep bumbling along, finding themselves invited to a posh vacation home after a spot of mistaken identity. In Deerskin, Dupieux gave Adèle Haenel the chance to play against her usual type and he does Adèle Exarchopoulos the same favour here, as a woman who can only deliver lines at ear-shattering volume, for reasons best discovered by watching the film, and who is determined the two men are hiding something.

Things feel as though they're happening on a whim in Dupieux's films and yet there's always a grand plan that you just can't make out until he springs it on you and here he jettisons all serious themes in favour of fun. Forget the bank robbery, it's your heart these guys steal and if you're looking for an enjoyable charmer at the upcoming Edinburgh Film Festival, this should leave you with a satisfying buzz.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2021
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When friends Jean-Gab and Manu find a giant fly trapped in the boot of a car, they decide to train it in the hope of making a ton of cash.


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