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VENICE 2020 Out of Competition

Quentin Dupieux • Director of Mandibles

“I make comedies seriously”

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- VENICE 2020: We talked to Quentin Dupieux, the director of Mandibles, about dim-witted protagonists and “creature features”. And Will Ferrell

Quentin Dupieux • Director of Mandibles
(© La Biennale di Venezia/Foto ASAC/Giorgio Zucchiatti)

Bringing some much-needed humour and giant insects to the Venice Film Festival’s Out of Competition section, Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibles [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Quentin Dupieux
film profile
]
sees two guys (Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais), arguably on the slower side, finding much more than forgotten groceries in the boot of a stolen car. And then deciding to train their discovery.

Cineuropa: When you decide to talk about people who are, well, a bit dim-witted, how do you go about making them likeable?
Quentin Dupieux: I guess some people will still reject it – they might reject the fact that they are so dumb. And it’s not even explained! They are like this, so you have to take it or leave it. Someone already mentioned the “buddy movie” thing to me, and it’s a classic code. I remember when I discovered Dumb and Dumber, I loved it and wanted to show it to my girlfriend. She said: “They are like teenagers; it’s not funny.” I thought this kind of humour was universal, but it’s not. It’s just the way guys are when they are between 12…

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and 60 years old.
Yeah, it doesn’t stop! Here, it’s terrible, and it just makes me laugh. You start with these crazy ideas, but then you need to come up with realistic characters. Even if they are nuts, you still need to believe they could actually exist. Otherwise, you can completely miss the point or make a film that connects with precisely no one. That happened to me already with Wrong [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. It’s a cool movie, but it’s so far removed from reality, so absurd, that only a few geeks enjoyed it. Normal people just went: “Why, why, why?” Way too many whys.

They don’t question anything that happens to them. Once they realise it’s not a hairdryer in the boot of the car, they just go along with it.
That was the idea: they find a giant fly, and anybody else would probably scream and run away. They just go: “Ugh. Is it alive?” It’s a completely different angle on that situation. Also, it’s not a horror movie; the fly isn’t scary, and I think that when you are watching the movie, you are more focused on their friendship, on the characters and what happens to them. The fly is there, but it’s like a pet. It’s a cool monster, sure, but they have their own human problems to deal with.

Were you thinking about all of those “creature features” from the 1950s, with those monsters that often look so funny when we look back at them today?
You are absolutely right – I grew up with those rubber-monster movies. Even in the 1980s, they were still made like this, as CGI didn’t exist. So it was logical to go there, also because I wanted the monster to have a connection with my actors. We did it the “old school” way – it’s a puppet. Then we created the legs with CGI, just that.

Everybody’s asking, “Why the fly?”, and before, they were asking, “Why the tyre?” [in Rubber [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
]. Some people will probably question it, suggesting a mosquito would be much better. I have tons of ideas, and when one sticks, I know there is something to it. This fly stuck in the boot just kept coming back.

You seem to like characters that get fixated on some idea, like Jean Dujardin with his jacket in Deerskin [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Quentin Dupieux
film profile
]
, or now Manu and Jean Gab, convinced that their discovery will finally change their lives.
Maybe I am like this, too – I am obsessed with what I am doing. I have my personal life with my wife and kids, which is almost normal. But I do not play tennis, drive boats, go travelling, no – I am a regular family guy fixated on moviemaking. That’s the only thing I do!

This American method of “testing” comedies is terrible. They want to make sure that everyone gets the joke – how horrible is that? Every time I realise that a movie I have made is enjoyable, I am surprised. I have so much artistic freedom, which means I am the only one responsible. If it’s a boring movie, it’s on me.

Your films, if one were to sum them up, usually seem like simple enough stories. All of the craziness is in the details.
It’s usually something we come up with on set. I may say to an actor: “You don’t have anything to do for a few seconds, so why don’t you touch your hair?” I think that the way I make my films, the way I frame them and score them, makes my presence at festivals like this possible. I try to make a dumb comedy look like a real movie. When you watch a stupid Will Ferrell comedy, you know it’s a stupid Will Ferrell comedy. It’s not even a movie – it’s entertainment. I make comedies seriously.

For this one, I was thinking about No Country for Old Men – but only because of the look of that film and the fact that they didn’t use any music. It was an interesting concept to me because when I see an over-scored film, I freeze. I can’t even laugh. When the music is there to explain, “Oh, here is the sentimental moment and here is the funny moment,” I just go: “Dude. No.”

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