(Screened at Fantastic Fest; U.S. release TBA)
Keep an Eye Out is the latest absurdist lark from Quentin Dupieux, whose Rubber — about a series of murders committed by a sentient automobile tire — is one of my favorite absurdist larks of the current century. Called Au Poste! in its native France, Keep an Eye Out takes place (apart from flashbacks) entirely in a police station, where one Louis Fuguain (Gregoire Ludig) is giving a statement to Chief Inspector Buron (Benoit Poelvoorde). Seems Fuguain found a dead body outside his apartment building, and since it turned out to be a murder victim, Fuguain has to be cleared as a possible suspect. He’s flustered because it’s late at night and he’d never seen a corpse before. “If it was your first corpse, how did you know he was dead?” Buron asks. Fuguain says, “I’ve seen lots of live people, and I compared.”
What ensues is best described (by me, anyway; maybe you can do better) as a series of comedy sketches that involve a fixed set of characters and advance a unified narrative. The basic conflict of the mega-sketch is that Fuguain wants to wrap this up and go home while Buron is content to amble along at a leisurely pace. Then someone else accidentally dies while Buron is out of the room, and Fuguain, fearing he’ll be suspected, hides the body in a locker, giving him even more incentive to end the interrogation quickly while adding the I’ve-hidden-a-body-in-this-room gags to the mix (improvised distractions, a nervous guy trying to be nonchalant, etc.).
As all of this plays out, we’re treated to mini-sketches involving these characters. There’s a second cop, Philippe (Marc Fraize), an officious, obedient suck-up who’s missing an eye and says “actually” a lot; you can imagine him popping up on SNL across four seasons. When Buron shares a personal anecdote, we see it in flashback — and so does Fuguain, who comments on it, prompting a discussion with Buron, who’s jealous that he doesn’t see it when Fuguain tells stories. When Buron has a cigarette, smoke seeps out through his chest, a condition he treats as normal while Fuguain freaks out. And so on and so forth.
There are many absurd delights in these mini-threads, running the gamut from wordplay to slapstick and back again, all performed with an air of dedicated lunacy. More up my alley it could hardly be, though it ends the way a lot of sketches do: with one last comic twist, followed by a petering out because Dupieux couldn’t think of a good ending. But the film begins with a man in small swim trunks conducting a symphony orchestra in a field before being chased by police, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about.