Fantastic Fest 2022: ‘Smoking Causes Coughing’ Review
Quentin Dupieux's 'Smoking Causes Coughing' is bloody, absurd, and sports a Super Sentai influence in all the best ways.
The Tobacco Force hasn’t been working as a cohesive unit as of late, despite their shared ability to use the negative energy of tobacco as a weapon to – in their own words – “suffocate our adversaries until they die”.
Despite opening the film by using their powers to cooperatively give a giant turtle cancer, the team – Benzene (Gilles Lellouche), Methanol (Vincent Lacoste), Nicotine (Anais Demoustier), Mercury (Jean-Pascal Zadi), and Ammonia (Oulaya Amamra) – are found in need of some help working together.
Thus, the team is sent off to a week-long retreat where their only missions are to relax, reconnect, and realign their teamwork – and just in time too, as the world’s greatest villain, Lizardin (Benoit Poelvoorde), has a new plan to destroy all of mankind.
French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Deerskin) is an acquired taste. His films, all of which are around 70-80 minutes long and thus easy to digest, are typically absurd, all-around gonzo comedies that thrive on almost nonsensical story structures and over-the-top gags.
In that vein, Smoking Causes Coughing is ridiculous and hilarious, especially if you’re a fan of tokusatsu programming.
Framed as three separate stories being told around a campfire by the Tobacco Force in an effort to scare their teammates, the first story tells the tale of two couples who vacation together in a country home, wherein one of the women finds a decades-old, soundproof, and damage-resistant helmet.
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Putting it on, she disappears within the confines of the helmet and eventually responds to her companions’ attempts to free her from its grasps in a most unexpected way.
The middle story is a bit of a throwaway gag, and is made all the more hilarious for it, but the last story is where things get really incredible.
Told by a barracuda caught by Benzene in a nearby lake as the hero is grilling it, this one follows a man in his early 20s who gets caught in a woodchipper feet-first and the subsequent-but-comically-flawed efforts by his aunt to free him from his painful fate.
The situation is made all the more hilarious by their shared desired to get him – or at least what’s left of him – to a party being held by his mother, who is blissfully unaware of her son’s predicament.
If this all seems outright bonkers, just know that the basic premises of these stories is only the surface of Smoking Causes Coughing’s humor, as the film also features an outright fit of jokes from start to finish.
Such notable bits include the Tobacco Force’s rat puppet chief being both a womanizer and absolutely ladies man, the team never taking off their costumes – even when sleeping – and the downer attitude of the team’s suicidal robot companion, Norbet 500.
While Dupieux’s aforementioned Rubber and Deerskin are his best films, Smoking Causes Coughing is hands down his funniest – not to mention most enjoyable – to date.
It’s bloody, absurd, and sports a Super Sentai influence in all the best ways imaginable.