Dir. Quentin Dupieux (2022)
Power Ranger-esque superhero group The Tobacco Force use the power of cancer-causing chemicals and karate to fight supervillains. After they begin to drift apart, they decide to go for a week-long retreat to reunite before returning to save the world.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Man, Quentin Dupieux is a weird, weird man. Having previously reviewed his films Rubber and Incredible But True, I knew before I started the film that this one was going to be a trip, but I had no idea how odd it would be. Taking a page out of the 90’s Saban television series Mithy Morphin’ Power Rangers, Smoking Causes Coughing is about a group of superheroes who use the negative chemicals found in cigarettes to fight villains like giant turtles and men who are also lizards. They are sent on missions by a drooling rat puppet who contacts them via video phone, and after their latest fight they are sent on a retreat to work on their team cohesion. In order to grow their bond as a team, the group decides to tell scary stories around a campfire, which is really just a vehicle for Dupieux to complete his real mission: making his audience question their sanity.
The trick to watching Dupieux’s films is to truly invest yourself in the world that he creates. To call his films bizarre would be an understatement, and Smoking Causes Coughing is no different. It’s an avant garde tour de force, Ultraman directed by Salvador Dali. Whether it’s talking fish, rubber monsters, or suicidal robots, it’s an eccentric superhero story that also happens to be absurdly hilarious. The film is utterly ridiculous, with a preposterous wackiness that hearkens back to the Japanese superhero shows of our childhood mixed with Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs. It’s weird, but it works, and it does so in increasingly funny ways.
This is one that will be hard to find an audience for, I won’t lie, but for those that it works, it’s going to work perfectly. It’s a charmingly goofy movie, and it works perfectly as a late-night festival encore. This one is playing at the Boston Underground Film Festival as well, and it’s a perfect fit. It’s difficult to say too much more without spoiling the film, but if you have enjoyed Dupieux’s other films, this one will be right up your alley. I highly recommend checking it out for fans of avant garde, absurdist comedy.
Who this movie is for: Foreign comedy fans, Absurd comedy lovers, Mighty Morphin’ What The Fuck
Bottom line: Definitely one to look out for, but it’s for sure an acquired taste. Dupieux is one of the weirdest filmmakers working today, and not all of his films will work for each person. If you’re a fan of 90’s cartoons and artistic comedies, though, this one very well might be for you. It’s showing at the Boston Underground Film Festival, so hopefully it’ll make its way to streaming or another festival near you. Check it out!