Keep an Eye Out comes from French musician turned absurdist filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr. Oizo, who’s known for a certain brand of oddball dadaism. For instance his 2010 film Rubber, which was about killer tire that could explode people’s heads. This one is about a man, played by mustachioed Gregoire Ludig, looking like a French Rob Delaney, who finds a corpse outside his apartment. He’s in the midst of trying to explain this story to a detective played by Benoît Poelvoorde inside a dowdy police station. Virtually the entire movie consists of this one place and this one story.
Dupieux has a rare talent for surrealist humor and when it works, it really works. The film’s centerpiece is a sequence involving a one-eyed cop which gives the film its title, a slow build that comes to a big crescendo. It’s a perfect mix of pun, slapstick, and absurdity.
Poelvoorde’s character, meanwhile has a hole in his chest that leaks when he smokes cigarettes, which he’s naturally very nonchalant about, much to the chagrin of the mystified Ludig. It’s a good gag. That’s their dynamic in a nutshell, one man refusing to acknowledge the ridiculousness of a situation.
Dupieux is constantly stacking absurdity on top of absurdity like this, while French Rob Delaney plays the put upon straight man, trapped in some comedic Kafka story. It mostly works well, but for me there’s a point at which archness needs to give way to some kind of vulnerability or genuine feeling, or else it stagnates. As genuinely brilliant and funny as Keep An Eye Out is, I’m not sure that moment ever comes. All the absurdity starts to feel like a deflection. I know you’re clever, but who are you?
Likewise, the characters offer arch commentary on the tediousness of a scene, and it’s smart and funny, but doesn’t quite make the scene not tedious. “Eet eez, how you say, ironic, no? Eet eez funny because zee dog, he does not play pokair.”
Dupieux stacks humorous ironies like a virtuoso but I’d like a smidge more about what actually drives him (fun fact: “Quentin” apparently sounds like “con-tawn’ in its proper French pronunciation). Regardless, I enjoyed Keep An Eye Out more than Dupieux’s last couple films and it should be an absolute delight for anyone who likes Euro slapstick slightly more than I do.