25th Aug2021

EIFF 2021: ‘Mandibles’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Grégoire Ludig, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos, India Hair, Roméo Elvis, Coralie Russier, Bruno Lochet | Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux

DJ-turned-writer-director-cinematographer-editor-composer Quentin Dupieux returns with another inspired one-joke movie, this time about two dumb losers and their giant fly. Warm-hearted, brilliantly acted and packed with big laughs, it’s a delightful comic treat with plenty of buzz.

Mandibles opens with beach-sleeping dimwit Manu (Grégoire Ludig) recruiting best buddy Jean-Gab (David Marsais) for a car theft and mysterious suitcase delivery misson that will net them the princely sum of 500 Euros. However, their plan hits an unexpected setback when they open the trunk of their newly nicked automobile and discover a giant fly.

Jean-Gab isn’t one to miss an opportunity, so he quickly suggests they train the fly and use it to rob banks, “like a drone”. However, their plans hit another snag when they’re unexpectedly invited to stay in a swanky poolside vacation home with Cécile (India Hair), who believes Manu is an old school friend. Soon, Manu and Jean-Gab’s farcical fly-hiding antics attract the suspicions of Cécile’s jealous friend Agnes (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who sets out to prove that they’re up to no good.

Ludig and Marsais have a highly infectious and utterly adorable comic energy that recalls that of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber or Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted. It comes as no surprise to discover that the pair are an established comic duo in their native France, having honed their comedic skills as co-stars on TV sketch series Palmashow.

However, Mandibles‘ biggest surprise is an unexpectedly hilarious comic turn from Exarchopoulos (Blue Is The Warmest Colour), the full details of which it would be churlish to reveal here, since they’re responsible for one of the film’s many great gags. Suffice it to say, she totally torpedoes her hitherto rather serious screen persona and leaves you crying with laughter in the process.

The script is a constant joy, delivering a steady stream of big laughs, encompassing everything from escalating farce to inspired sight gags, brilliant running jokes (you’ll be hard pressed not to imitate Manu and Jean-Gab’s secret handshake with friends afterwards), off-the-wall absurdity, witty one-liners and perfectly timed moments of comic idiocy.

As for the giant fly (who Jean-Gab names Dominique), Dupieux and his team pull off a remarkable feat of puppetry that’s somehow both completely convincing and weirdly adorable, despite being a hideous giant insect. In addition, Dupiex’s comic instincts are so perfectly attuned that he even manages to get big laughs out of the fly’s movements, not least during the wonderful training scenes.

Mandibles‘ nigh-on irresistible charm is further heightened by Dupiex’s effortless mastery of the tone, creating a sunshine-filled, happy-go-lucky setting (reflecting our two idiots’ perpetually optimistic worldview) where the sudden appearance of a giant fly in the trunk of your car seems like the most normal thing in the world. Hey, it was making a loud buzzing noise – what else could it have been?

In short, Mandibles is an absurdist gem that cements Dupiex as a unique comic talent. Here’s hoping he finds a way to work with Ludig and Marsais again, because their comedic collaboration here is a soaraway success. Highly recommended.

**** 4/5

Mandibles screened as part of this years Edinburgh Film Festival.


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