Simply minutes into Quentin Dupieux’s Smoking Causes Coughing, it turns into apparent that one thing isn’t proper about its staff of fake Energy Rangers. The five-person superhero group, generally known as Tobacco Power, dispatches a hulking rubber turtle monster by capturing it with a concentrated stream of cigarette smoke, giving the beast such an terrible case of most cancers that it explodes in a protracted, lingering unfold of gore. Drenched within the kaiju’s greasy blood and guts, Tobacco Power celebrates one other win. It appears like simply one other day on the workplace — on this case, an empty quarry, the best filming location for spandex-clad kung-fu antics and explosions.
The 5 members of Tobacco Power, all named after components of cigarette smoke — Benzene, Nicotine, Ammonia, Mercury, and Methanol — promptly report again to their boss, Chief Didier. He seems to be a ratlike puppet that appears like a cigarette left unchecked and burning right down to ash, and he’s always drooling inexperienced goo on himself. It’s out of the blue dreadfully clear that Dupieux has dressed up an absurdist comedy within the costume of a tokusatsu superhero collection. Additional underscoring that absurdity: One Tobacco Power member has a painfully unrequited crush on this womanizing, slobbering, red-eyed rat factor.
It solely will get weirder from there.
Smoking Causes Coughing is masked as a send-up of superhero exhibits like Mighty Morphin Energy Rangers and Kamen Rider, with a monster-of-the-week dangerous man and a looming intergalactic risk. However the heroes of Tobacco Power are tasked with an atypical mission: When Mercury experiences efficiency nervousness and might’t produce smoke on demand, Chief Didier mandates recuperation time for the entire staff. A forced-fun retreat, the Chief says, is critical to deal with their floundering group cohesion upfront of a possible catastrophic occasion.
Dupieux establishes splendidly weird and micro-scale world-building for his or her retreat. On arriving at their dwelling away from dwelling, an underground bunker, the staff members specific delight at seeing a lake, such an extremely uncommon factor on this world that they should touch upon it. They marvel at facilities like seawater showers, onerous titanium beds, and a fridge that’s only a doorway to a completely stocked grocery retailer, staffed by a pleasant girl who’s able to convey the staff no matter they want. They sleep and go swimming of their full Tobacco Power costumes.
What occurs subsequent, because the Tobacco Power members grapple with private points and attempt to join by telling one another weird tales, is best left unspoiled. However Dupieux fills the short 80-minute movie with bonkers swerves. It’s unattainable to foretell what is going to occur subsequent in Smoking Causes Coughing, as a result of Dupieux rejects superhero storytelling templates in favor of whiplash-inducing story selections.
The tales Dupieux tells via his characters are humorous, absurd, and violent. The author-director — greatest identified for his 2010 movie Rubber, a couple of possessed, murderous rubber automotive tire — delivers some surprising violence and gore, however with essentially the most laid-back and calming path. One of many movie’s grisliest, most difficult-to-watch moments is delivered with such outstanding nonchalance that it makes the entire of Smoking Causes Coughing price watching.
Within the film’s manufacturing notes, Dupieux says his superhero film “by no means imposes any huge speeches, and there’s no ethical of the story,” claiming that it’s merely “an unabashed supply of inconsequential leisure.” That’s actually true — it is a low-key hangout film with remarkably minimal stakes and no huge decision. (Stick round for the post-credits scene for a closing gag that simply underlines Dupieux’s dedication to not wrapping up a narrative.)
On the identical time, Smoking Causes Coughing’s lightness and amorality is tough to sq. with its themes of environmental collapse, air pollution, and societal disconnection. However perhaps all of these concepts are simply extra misdirection from Dupieux. Certain, his movie initially appears like a nostalgic superhero farce. Then it begins to really feel like a prank on the viewers. However that feels much less true the deeper you get into it.
At one level, Dupieux does flirt with a morality message, when Tobacco Power chief Benzene tells a starry-eyed fan of the staff that smoking is an unhealthy behavior that can destroy his physique and gained’t make him look cool. However when confronted with imminent destruction, our heroes wind up nervously chain-smoking anyway, whereas reflecting on the absurdity and missed alternatives of their lives. If there’s one takeaway from Smoking Causes Coughing, it might be that: Life is brief and illogical, and it typically looks like one huge joke that’s only a beat away from a punchline.
Smoking Causes Coughing is now enjoying in restricted theatrical launch, and is offered for rental or buy on Amazon, Vudu, and different digital platforms.