French Filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, DJ turned director, has made a name for himself in his native France with quirky surrealist films. His film Rubber encapsulated his hard-to-discern style and unorthodox approach to the world of filmmaking.  His latest, Keep An Eye Out (released in France in 2018) is, on paper, a straightforward police comedy film. But from the opening moments of a semi-nude man conducting an orchestra in a field, we know this is something all the more bizarre.

From the opening absurdity, it is hard for audiences to fathom what exactly is going on. The surrealist approach to the subject-matter, both from a story and production perspective, is to be complemented, as it enriches the filmmaking, ensuring the audience pay attention to the various twists and turns.

The film’s core story is focused on Louis Fugain, the chief suspect in a murder investigation and the vast majority of the film’s run time sees him being interrogated by Commissaire Buron.  Fugain’s neighbour sees him leave his apartment multiple times on the night the murder is supposed to have occurred and so we are given some entertaining moments of Fugain recounting his various exploits from the evening and the increasing levels of disbelief from Buron.

The interplay between the pair is at the film’s core, with the pair disagreeing over Buron’s various alibies as well as arguing over trivialities such as each’s use of language. Grégoire Ludig (Fugain) and Benoît Poelvoorde (Buron) commit to the absurdist proceedings and bring some moments of genuine humour. Given the bulk of the film is solely dedicated to these two individuals and the main location is the police station, there is a constant energy to proceedings.

Fugain’s lapses into dream-like states, due to his hunger and fatigue, helping to ensure things do not end up stale, as we try to keep up with what is really happening at the station interspersed with his imagination. The segments that take place within Fugain’s mind, offer a contrast to the main proceedings and offer an idea of the imagination Dupieux possesses. This certainly prevents the film from feeling like a carbon copy of so many police procedurals.

Considering the film’s sprightly run-time at just over 70 minutes, Dupieux manages to cram a number of styles and themes into the film. As a result, it could perhaps have done with a slightly longer run-time to fully capitalise on its unorthodox nature, particularly the last 10 minutes which may come across as quite left-field to some audiences. While it is an ambitious film, with an extra 20 minutes, it could have pulled off some of its more lofty intentions.

While the off-on nature of the interrogation can at times be frustrating, it is fun to see the interactions between the pair and some of the creative decisions Dupieux has taken to make the film stand apart from others in the genre. On multiple occasions the film plays out in a Pythonesque vein with a particular segment towards the films denouement similar to the conclusion of The Holy Grail.

The production design is one of the highlights, with much of the film taking place within the walls of the police station and an almost play-like nature, the station very much feels like it was lifted from the 1970s. For the film to be engaging, despite taking place within one room, is to its credit, although we do have the occasional excursion to the streets of Paris.

While it is quite a dreamlike, hard-to-discern film at times Keep An Eye Out is never unimaginative or dull and shows the vivid imagination of Quentin Dupieux. It is well-acted and has a faced-paced script. While its more outlandish qualities might be off-putting for some, the twists and turns will be richly rewarding for many. The slim run-time never feels overly short, although perhaps the film could have achieved more of its clearly lofty ambitions with a slightly longer running time and the interplay between its two leads is for the most part riveting and immensely fun.

Rating: ★★★½

In theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide (US) this Friday, March 5 2021