The Second Act


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Quentin Dupieux’s The Second Act gets the opening out of competition berth at the Cannes Film Festival
"Working out where the play-acting stops and the “real” action begins is enough to keep you on the edge of interest." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

It could have been hopelessly self-indulgent but Quentin Dupieux’s anarchic and quirky sense of humour finds full flavour in this amusing “appetiser” which still leaves you hankering after a full meal.

Better that than overstaying its welcome as his cast (notably Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Vincent Lindon and Raphaël Quenard) play around with the foibles and artifice of their craft as they are gathered together to make a romantic comedy.

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The collective view is that they are making a pretty dire production and to liven things up they keep interrupting the shoot to voice their own grievances against each other, the script and the unseen director who keeps shouting, “Cut!”

Most of the film unfurls in a roadside pub called The Second Act, presided over by the lumbering barkeeper (played by Manuel Guillot).

Working out where the play-acting stops and the “real” action begins is enough to keep you on the edge of interest - with the added fillip of watching a collection of France’s best known stars undermine their own public images for the sheer hell of it.

Dupieux has ploughed his idiosyncratic furrow for almost a decade now, scoring a legion of loyal aficionados in the process. Recently he offered such satires as Daaaaaali! and Yannick and before that there was his eminently more satisfying Deerskin with Jean Dujardin blowing his life savings on vintage jacket.

Here he manages to embrace such current concerns as political correctness, cancel culture and sexual identity as the actors go through paces, improvising much of the dialogue en route.

Veteran Lindon in particular has fun with his role when he finds out via his agent has just landed him a role in a new film by Boogie Nights and Licorice Pizza director Paul Thomas Anderson. For a French actor least that’s the ultimate of all accolades.

It has some points of comparison to François Truffaut’s classic Day for Night (La nuit americaine) in its exploration of the creative process and that’s no bad thing for such a lightweight sleight of hand.

Dupieux is a director who always leaves you wondering what he will be up to next - and on his form so far there is no way anyone can predict.

Reviewed on: 15 May 2024
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The Second Act packshot
Film within a film sees actors squabble at a roadside pub.

Director: Quentin Dupieux

Writer: Quentin Dupieux

Starring: Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel, Raphaël Quenard, Manuel Guillot

Year: 2024

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: France


Cannes 2024

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