Even though Quentin Dupieux's latest film is out already, I still had to catch up with his previous release. On paper, Keep an Eye Out [Au Poste!] may look like a bit of frivolous pastime in between larger projects, but that's definitely selling the film short. Something I should've realized a lot quicker, because the combination of Dupieux and Poelvoorde is absolutely wonderful and the resulting film is every bit as dark, joyous and absurd as one could hope for. If you're up for some nonsensical comedy, this film is a perfect match.
I have to say that Quentin Dupieux really surprised me. When Rubber (Dupieux's break-out film) came out, I figured it was just some kind of one-off vanity project, a creative whim of an artist with too many ideas and no steadfast goal in mind. I really liked that film, but I never expected Dupieux to make another one ever again. I was wrong on all accounts (not in the least because Rubber was his third film already). Throughout this past decade, Dupieux established himself as a true auteur, a director with an immediately recognizable style of making film, someone whose next project is something to keep a close eye on.
Dupieux's trademark style is characterized by a unique mix of absurd and deadpan comedy. While his films always sound extremely zany and outrageous, the tone is actually very minimal and down to earth. And it's exactly that tension, between two very different, seemingly contradictory styles of comedy, that Dupieux exploits to create something special. While the audience is watching a universe that is extremely weird, puzzling and destabilizing, the characters tend to be dealing with their strange fate without a worry in the world.
Keep an Eye Out keeps its premise a little less absurd compared to some of Dupieux's other films, but the devil is in the details. The entire film is centered around an interrogation between an overeager cop and an innocent passer-by who discovered a body lying in the streets. The guy who reported the body simply wants to go home and rest, the cop on the other hand is keeping all options open and wants to run through the events of the evening one more time, hoping to solve the case right there, right then.
On a visual level, Dupieux's films tend to look a little plain and inconspicuous, but look beyond their muddy and grey exterior and you'll find that the stark styling and the old-fashioned appearance support the comedy surprisingly well. The editing is a perfect match for the dry and deadpan comedy, whereas the homely, dated settings and characters make for a nice contrast with the more absurd elements. Keep an Eye Out may not be the most striking film, but the visual styling is effective and good for a couple of chuckles, so no complaints there.
The score on the other hand is slightly disappointing. Dupieux first made a name for himself as a musician and even though the music here nicely supports the comedy (and the film as a whole), it does very little beyond that. It's not a bad score, on the contrary, but it's also rather forgettable and discrete. I always expect a little extra when a director is (or has been active) in the music scene, not in the least because scores are generally undervalued, but that is not the case here.
Luckily Dupieux was able to count on some tremendous acting talent to bring out the full potential of this comedy. Benoît Poelvoorde is one of Belgium's brightest actors and has a dark, cheeky charm that few other actors can match. His portrayal of the somewhat bored but spirited cop is absolutely golden. Some of his lively expressions and mannerisms are so spot on that I simply couldn't help but laugh out loud. But it's Grégoire Ludig who surprised me the most. I'm wasn't familiar with the actor before, but the ease with which he holds his own next to Poelvoorde is absolutely amazing. They're an immensely funny duo that lift this film to a higher level.
Don't expect anything too grand from Keep an Eye Out. It's not a "big" film with lots of twist and turns, expensive set pieces and flashy reveals. It's quite the opposite really, but clearly by design. Dupieux keeps his universe small, comfortable and focused. There are a few small diversions that complicate the hearing and there is indeed a nice twist at the end, but because of the short running time and the limited decor, it all feels very contained and singular. In that way, the comedy is allowed to thrive.
Keep an Eye Out is a film for a select audience. It's never going to be a crowd-pleaser, for that it simply isn't spectacular enough. But if you like quirky and absurd comedies that draw the most from a simple premise, backed by some incredibly talented comedy actors, you really can't go wrong with this film. Dupieux is slowly but surely building up an impressive oeuvre and Keep an Eye Out is a clear and valuable addition towards that goal. It's delightful, funny and appropriately bonkers, the kind of film you'd expect Dupieux to make.