With “Le Deuxième Acte”, Dupieux proposes an opening film that grapples with the current issues of the filming industry

With “Le Deuxième Acte”, Dupieux proposes an opening film that grapples with the current issues of the filming industry

The newest film by Quentin Dupieux imposes on the critics a major challenge: that of not plucking out the many pitfalls which punctuate its progression, whose unveiling provokes a playful pleasure that it would be unappreciative to spoil. So as no to fall into the trap of esotericism, one can nonetheless allow themselves to mention some of those here – and one can only encourage those who wish to remain untainted with such knowledge not to continue their reading. Upon watching Le Deuxième Acte, you could first posit that it is the reverse angle of the director’s previous film, Yannick. In Yannick, it was from the audience that rose the questioning of the spectacular device, through the lens of a play being violently heckled by an exasperated member of the audience. Here, the opposite happens.

It is at the very heart of spectacle that a spark of protest contaminates every parameter of representation, to the point of directly calling out the viewer. The eye is in the screen, and it stares us down. The one that watches is being watched, and interrogated about what he watches. The film clashes together three interrelated levels of reality through the use of a logic of disruption and short-circuiting.

The first stage of fiction is a classical comedy of manners in which a young woman (Léa Seydoux) introduces her lover (Louis Garrel) to her father (Vincent Lindon), while the young man’s best friend (Raphaël Quenard) is present. The plot is reminiscent of that of the film woven within a film of La Nuit américaine (Truffaut, 1973), entitled Je vous présente Pamela (telling the tale of the introduction by a young man of his partner to his father). The resemblance is not devoid of intent, since Le Deuxième Acte just so happens, as it unveils, to be, like La Nuit américaine, the story of a filming.

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Only Dupieux, contrary to Truffaut, does not stop to one single mise en abyme. The film, as it advances, deconstructs itself in bursts. In doing so, it makes room for artful turnarounds, thundering reversals that are often intensely funny – and made so thanks to the directing of the actors and actresses, impeccable as it always is with Dupieux. The films also ventures onto a register in which outrage (for example with a scene in which homophobic and transphobic jokes fly back and forth) is supposed to be alleviated through the use of novel volte-faces that contradict every stereotype first postulated. The film plays with fire, tests some limits, before wriggling out with a flourish. But its most interesting aspect remains the accurateness of its timing. The most acute issues that currently animate the filming industry are rattled around the film, as in a crazed cocktail shaker. The upper hand taken over creation by artificial intelligence, the threat of sexual assaults on a set, the social violence against the less recognized workers in the filming industry (through the character of the extra portrayed by Manuel Guillot) : every dark cloud darkening the horizon congregates in the plot. And each of these pirouettes end up crashing on the conclusive sentence pronounced by Léa Seydoux’s character: ‘Reality is still reality’ ; the film then opens to the point of vertigo on an exteriority that threatens to devour everything.

Dupieux’s impressive work cadence, which allows him to create, complete and present a film in record time, might be the most important ingredient to this feeling of immediate grappling with what dominates the current times. Rarely (never?) has a Cannes film festival begun with a film that so precisely scans through every thought of those who watch it. Le Deuxième Acte (a title as intriguing as it is enigmatic) presents the festival with a first act resembling a sardonic mirror.

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Author : Jean-Marc Lalanne

Publish date : 2024-05-14 20:54:56

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Tags : Les Inrocks

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