Few filmmakers have an imagination like Quentin Dupieux. The director of Mandibles and Rubber often pushes the limits of filmmaking for the benefit of the art form. He embraces a sense of parody while asking you to stretch your mind as far as he does. Not everyone can get on his wavelength, but for a festival like Make Believe Seattle, his voice is welcome. His latest work, Smoking Causes Coughing, should undoubtedly scratch the itch for fans of absurdist filmmaking and bloody fun.

Following a faux-Power Rangers team, Smoking Causes Coughing works as an anthology and its own contained story. The team, known as Tobacco-Forces, finds their chemistry is off. To repair it, they take a retreat away from killing the random monsters that attack them. Instead, they find themselves telling stories and trying to rebalance their relationships.

Dupieux assembles one of the most promising casts of french performers possible. Nearly every person who makes up our core five “Tobacco Force” has considerable awards traction in France (either as an up-and-comer or with Caesar nominations). Gilles Lellouche leads the way, but Vincent Lacoste, Anais Demoustier, Jean-Paul Zadi, and Oulaya Amara make up the rest of the ensemble. With so much talent on set, they effortlessly throw to each other for jokes, and everyone delivers. Dupieux gives everyone standout material, and at least once, every character makes you gut-laugh.

Even the side stories feature top-tier talent. Adèle Exarchopoulos will draw the most attention from American audiences, and she gets the best of the anthology sequences. Alain Chabat gets to voice a rat that immediately evokes the imagery of Teenage Ninja Turtles. Yet his delivery and Dupieux’s approach infuse a Mel Brooks humor that’s impossible to ignore. A running gag with a series of robots delivers as Dupieux critiques our reliance on technology and becomes an eerily relevant conclusion to the film.

The absurdity of the stories makes Smoking Causes Coughing a truly unique visual experience. There’s a strangeness to the story that feels like it’s actively fighting against cinematic impulses. This can sometimes feel offputting, but at the same time, it’s an enjoyable experience. The independent nature of Smoking makes it stand out, but Deprieux’s unwillingness to compromise his vision also means that there’s a ceiling on this particular project. At times, the lack of energy hurts in that regard, and sadly leaves Smoking Causes Coughing running on fumes.

With so many great performers committing to the absurdity of their scenes, Smoking Causes Coughing never fails to get a laugh. The stories and absurdities are too good to spoil in this review, but rest assured, you will never guess what story (or who tells them) will come next. Dupieux continues his absurdist streak, and if you’ve enjoyed his previous works, you know what you’re in for.

Alan’s Rating: 7/10

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