Friday, July 23, 2021

Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibles

Manu and Jean-Gab plan to train their new pet to be an animal burglar, sort of like the old organ-grinder monkeys. However, Dominique is not a primate. She is a weirdly large mutant house fly. It is an unlikely scheme, but the randomness of the world is their greatest ally in Quentin Dupieux’s ultra-eccentric Mandibles, which releases today in theaters and on-demand.

Calling Manu a homeless beach bum would imply his life has more structure than it really does. Nevertheless, a dodgy associate recruits him for a courier job delivering a mysterious Marsellus Wallace-style valise to a client. Much to Manu’s confusion, the terms of the job require the case to be secured in the trunk of a car, so he naturally steals an old beater Mercedes. After picking up his crony Jean-Gab, they discover the mini-kaiju in the trunk.

Instead of completing their assignment, the two slackers decide Jean-Gab will train the fly to become their personal air-born thief. To do so, they need someplace where they can lay low. Initially, they invade the home of a desert hermit, but the knuckleheads destroy everything they touch. Fortunately, fate intervenes, when Cecile, an entitled party girl, mistakes Manu for an old high school flame. Her friends are not much charmed by the lads, who resort to plenty of door-slamming slap-stick and a fair amount of gaslighting to keep Dominique a secret from their hosts, especially Agnes, who shouts like a John Cleese character due to a brain injury. She really dislikes the new guests.

is a return to form for Dupieux after the dour and cringey Deerskin. Mandibles is more like Wrong and Reality, which took delight in their lunacy. Even though Manu and Jean-Gab do some pretty terrible things, the film itself it bright, energetic, and upbeat. It is almost like the most surreal Seinfeld episode ever.

Gregoire Ludig and David Marsais are perfectly moronic and amoral as Manu and Jean-Gab. India Hair is earthy and somehow not annoyingly idiotic as the inexplicably dense Cecile. However, Adele Exarchopoulos might just give the performance of her career as the tragically abrasive Agnes (seriously, forget about the over-praised
Blue is the Warmest Color).

Of course, the true star is Dominique, whose creature-design combines the right blend of cartoonishness and creepy-crawly realism. She is indeed an unnaturally large fly. She would freak you out if you saw her in real life, but she has a strange (like everything else in
Mandibles) charm on-screen.

Mandible might not be Dupieux’s best film, but it could very well be his funniest. He populates his characters in a typically crazy universe, but it has its own bizarre logic that you have to admire. Mandibles is more than a little nutty, but it works. Highly recommended for cult movie fans, Mandibles opens today (7/23) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center.