Gregoire Ludig, Adele Exarchopoulos, India Hair, David Marsais, Romeo Elvis
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…mostly harmless, often senseless and occasionally amusing…
Mandibles is the latest film from French musician turned filmmaker, Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr. Oizo). It’s an odd film, veering between lovably surreal farce and nihilistic idiocy. The premise has our protagonists, Manu (Grégoire Ludig) and Jean-Gab (David Marsais), stumbling upon a grotesquely large fly in the boot of a car that they’ve stolen. This scuppers the completion of a possibly dodgy job they’re on, but these two will not be disheartened. Jean-Gab suggests training the huge fly, which he names Dominique, and putting it to work for them as a kind of thief drone – one that “doesn’t need batteries”.
The action takes place in a less than idyllic South of France where Manu and Jean-Gab lurch almost involuntarily from one ludicrous situation to another, all the while giving each other a nerdy hand-shake called ‘The Toro’. After some initial criminal tomfoolery, Manu is mistaken for someone else and invited to a country villa by some young women. Offer accepted, they take advantage of the free food and swimming pool, but Jean-Gab has Dominique’s well-being on his mind, as well as the money-making scheme. He continues to train the fly until Agnès, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos, begins to suspect some funny business. Her character is a bit of a misstep. Agnès shouts when she speaks, supposedly due to a skiing accident, and though the others don’t make fun of her disability, it still feels as though the audience is encouraged to do so – an attempt at drawing cheap laughs when there’s already plenty of the bizarre to go around.
Dupieux has form with this kind of anarchic story-telling; the lead in Rubber is a sentient, killer tyre, Deerskin is about a murderously manipulative jacket and this film features a unicorn bike, diamond dentures and an ‘unfortunate’ dog, as well as the massive insect. On the face of it, Mandibles appears to be a high concept gimmick crowbarred into a goofy buddy comedy, but the themes of friendship and despair just manage to shine through the weirdness. There’s a nice sense of cyclical completion with opening and closing scenes taking place on the same desolate beach and a satisfying, if predictable final development with Dominique. Mandibles is mostly harmless, often senseless and occasionally amusing, and aside from Dupieux’s other works, there aren’t too many films like this.