Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what the heck Smoking Causes Coughing is actually about. Something about the environment? Public health? The despair of humanity? It’s not totally clear, but it totally doesn’t matter. The latest film from Quentin Dupieux, a darling of the festival circuit thanks to weird and wonderful films like Rubber and Wrong, is beyond entertaining and hilarious. It’s a non-stop barrage of absurdist stories and humor that will make you think—but will make you laugh even more.
Smoking Causes Coughing centers on Tobacco Force, a Power Rangers-looking superhero team with five members, each named after an evil ingredient in a cigarette (Nicotine, Methanol, Ammonia, etc). They travel the world battling evil, but are in desperate need of a break. So after an unbelievably over-the-top opening battle, the heroes go on a retreat where they try to one-up each other by telling “scary” stories. In reality the stories aren’t exactly scary, but they’re incredibly unpredictable and wild. One is about a woman in a helmet. Another is told by a talking fish. A wood chipper comes into play. Each story unfolds in a bright, beautiful setting, making the laughs that much bigger.
Tobacco Force is really funny too, especially the fact that their leader Chef Didier only communicates by phone, a la Charlie’s Angels, and is a talking, oozing, puppet rat who all the women are madly in love with. Each member of the team then brings a specific energy to the group that makes their sequences shine even among the anthology stories. Eventually, there’s certainly some kind of overarching message that emerges about the state of the world but, as we said, it’s truly insignificant. Every second of Smoking Causes Coughing is so unpredictable and funny you can’t help but love it, and to say much more would take away from its wholly original and maddening hilarity.
Smoking Causes Coughing opens in Europe later this year. It recently played at Fantastic Fest 2022.
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