I have long admired Quentin Dupieux’s films more than enjoyed them. Maybe his sense of humor is just too wild for my sensibilities, or perhaps I’m just destined to not “get” it, but his tenacity is refreshing, regardless of how much I sincerely laugh at his creations. And Mandibles is no different.
Structured as a buddy comedy, two aimless friends on a courier job (we don’t know what they’re delivering or to whom) discover a giant fly in the trunk of their car, and naturally, they desire to profit from this discovery. That’s the general setup here and where it goes from there should remain a surprise, but it’s safe to say that plot isn’t what carries the scant 77 minute runtime here.
Dupieux seems most comfortable when keeping the audience, and his characters, anything but. I’d be hard-pressed to call what Dupieux does “cringe comedy” but the effect is similar; we are treated to characters that seem foreign to us (and I don’t mean that as an American) in situations that are farcical, surreal and could be interpreted as parody. But the surprise is that Dupieux always manages to come across as earnest. Most filmmakers working a giant fly into their narrative would lean on horror, spectacle or some type of abjection but Dupieux doesn’t do that; he allows the fly to exist as just another character in his story, which should prepare you for just how weird the human characters are.
On its surface, this is a French Bill and Ted film that feels even more removed from reality, yet is ultimately, surprisingly, sweet. Dupieux doesn’t exhibit the same anarchy as he did in films like Rubber or Deerskin, this is a film more concerned with camaraderie and discovery than chaos. As such, it also — despite featuring a giant fly — feels like his most human film, and arguably the most accessible thing he has done. I can’t say that I found it funny, but I did find it strangely endearing and I wouldn’t have minded if it went on a bit longer. Which is, at this point, the best reaction I’ve had to a Dupieux film.