The Movie Waffler New to VOD - SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING | The Movie Waffler


ragtag group of superheroes become Earth's only hope in defeating an evil galactic emperor.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Quentin Dupieux

Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Anaïs Demoustier, Vincent Lacoste, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra, Adele Exarchopoulos

Spare a thought for the poor PR folk who have to come up with ways to market the films of absurdist auteur Quentin Dupieux. The marketing peeps have focussed on selling his latest, Smoking Causes Coughing, as a satire of the superhero genre. That's understandable, given the perennial popularity of the genre, but it buries the lede. Smoking Causes Coughing is indeed a spoof of superhero movies, but it's also a horror-comedy anthology, one whose tone falls somewhere between EC Comics and the Zucker Brothers.

The superhero storyline acts as the wraparound as we're introduced to the Tobacco Force, a quintet of Z-grade Power Rangers, with each member possessing the power to wield a key ingredient of cigarettes as a weapon. There's Benzène (Gilles Lellouche), Methanol (Vincent Lacoste), Nicotine (Anaïs Demoustier), Mercure (Jean-Pascal Zadi) and Ammoniaque (Oulaya Amamra). Dupieux appears to be poking fun at the sort of anti-smoking campaigns that were popular during his childhood, in which half-baked knock-offs of popular comic book characters would take down baddies associated with spreading the habit. Sometime genuine superheroes would come up against such foes, as in Superman's antagonist Nick O'Teen.

Smoking Causes Coughing review

We first encounter the Tobacco Force through the eyes of a young boy who stumbles across the Force in action battling a giant turtle. The turtle is a stuntman in a rubber suit, the kind of villain William Shatner used to scrap in the original Star Trek series, or that might be seen stomping Tokyo. Either way, it's a delightful reminder of a more innocent era, a more fun time, and serves to point out how boring superhero movies have become in the past few decades as they chase an adult audience.

After struggling to take down the turtle, the team is contacted by their boss, a Roland Rat-alike puppet named Chief Didier and voiced by Alain Chabat, who sends them off to a lakeside retreat in order to strengthen group cohesion. An amusing sub-plot sees both Nicotine and Ammoniaque flirt with the rather vile creature, who compliments their breasts while drooling some odd green fluid from his fangs, and who always seems to have another woman in his bed.

Smoking Causes Coughing review

As the Tobacco Force settle around a campfire, the anthology segments are introduced in the form of stories spun by the various members. One tells of a quartet of friends who visit a nearby Air BnB home, where one of them finds a "thinking helmet," a clunky welder's helmet that gives its wearer a new sense of clarity. Donning the device, Agathe (Doria Tillier) suddenly realises how much she despises her husband and their friends and sets about murdering them with various household implements. Dupieux cleverly apes the slasher genre's POV shots as we view the action through the postbox-like slot in the welder's helmet, and Adèle Exarchopoulos has fun in the role of final girl, a self-obsessed young woman who can't resist livestreaming her own demise.

Next up is a very brief tale of environmental terror told by a young girl who appears out of nowhere and subsequently vanishes. That tale features a fish, which is later caught by the team and begins to tell its own horror story while it fries on a grill. This leads to the movie's highlight, an absurdist tale of a young man caught in a wine press that is as hilarious as it is ludicrous. The segment is wonderfully played by David Marsais as the victim and Blanche Gardin as his aunt. As the latter's attempts to free her nephew continually backfire, dragging him further into the machine, the former insists on apologising, claiming "It doesn't hurt so bad, really." The segment is a riot throughout, capped off by a classic EC Comics denouement.

Smoking Causes Coughing review

The haphazard nature of Smoking Causes Coughing's narrative and its brief 76 minute runtime suggest it's made up of fragments of ideas Dupieux had for stories and vignettes that couldn't be stretched to feature length (not that that's a consideration that's stopped him in the past). In this way it's sort of the cinematic equivalent of an album like Bob Dylan's Self Portrait, a bunch of odds and ends thrown together in the hopes that fans of the artist will get something worthwhile from the endeavour.

If you're a fan of Dupieux - and frankly, why wouldn't you be? – there's plenty to keep you amused here, and that wine press segment ranks among his finest work. If the French filmmaker's work generally leaves you bemused, you should probably sit this one out. If you're completely unfamiliar with Dupieux, this might be a good place to start, as it will clue you into his off-kilter sensibilities without testing your patience too heavily.

Smoking Causes Coughing is on UK/ROI VOD now.

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