Venice 2020: Two Bozos & One Giant Fly in Dupieux's 'Mandibules'
by Alex Billington
September 6, 2020
What do two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos have in common? Absolutely nothing! Except for a desire to eat good food and enjoy themselves in the summer sun. Mandibules is the latest creation from wacky French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (of Rubber, Wrong, Reality, Deerskin) and it's an amusing, lighthearted, unquestionably enjoyable film about uh, two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It's super weird, super French, buddy comedy ridiculousness. But that's the magic of Quentin Dupieux - he makes entirely original and entirely entertaining films. And this one clocks in at only 77 minutes, which is both just long enough, and also not long enough. You'll see what I mean once you watch it, because just as it's getting real good, it's over. Then again, better to not ruin it when everything else is pretty much perfect.
Written & directed by Quentin Dupieux (formerly known as "Mr. Oizo"), Mandibules introduces us to two bozos: Jean-Gab and Manu, played by Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais (who also starred together in The Comic Adventures of Max and Leon previously). Manu is recruited to drive some suitcase 15 miles away to earn a bit of cash. But upon stealing a car and picking up his friend Jean-Gab, they open the trunk to discover a giant fly in there. Where did it come from, what the hell is it anyway, and how is it is so big? All questions that are never answered. This is a Quentin Dupieux film, after all, and considering his first big hit was a film about a sentient rubber tire (Rubber, 2009) it's not surprising that the explanation of this fly is irrelevant. It's what it is. Instead, we follow these two around as they try to train it in order to make money.
The film is essentially a comedy-of-errors, misadventure as Jean-Gab and Manu bumble their way around the sunny French coast. They squat in a camper until that goes wrong, then get mistaken for an old "high school friend" and end up crashing at some holiday home in the hills with a swimming pool. Everything about this film is ridiculous, but that's why I love it. Who else makes films like this? Who else makes films where Adèle Exarchopoulos plays a woman who has a "vocal problem" from a ski accident, so she just yells at the time? No one besides Dupieux, that's who. Toro!! What began as chuckling eventually became full on laughter as the film plays out, while realizing these two dumb dudes are actually rather compelling friends. And as dumb as they are, they keep barely sneaking their way out of every bad situation. Of course.
The whole time watching this I was trying to figure out what Dupieux's point is and what he's trying to say with this (not that he needs to say anything but it was definitely leading somewhere). And I think ultimately it's: these guys are certainly idiots, yet they actually achieve something when everyone else (they meet) continually makes mistakes and doesn't seem to ever figure out their tricks. Maybe they aren't idiots after all? Nah, they are. But that's how the world works - sometimes they get more done than the smart folks. And that's a pretty impressive thing to put into a film about… well, two guys with no money who find a giant fly and try to figure out how to make money off of it. Of course I want more of Jean-Gab and Manu and their giant fly - sequels, animated spin-offs, lunchboxes, branded hotels. Only time will tell if all that will happen.
Alex's Venice 2020 Rating: 8.8 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing