Ithaca Fantastik Review: KEEP AN EYE OUT

This film is part of Ithaca Fantastik festival, a ten day film, art, and music festival that takes place in early November in Ithaca, New York. The “fantastic” dwells in that unsettling terrain between the uncanny and the marvelous, a place where both supernatural and natural causes mix. Ithaca Fantastik runs until November 4th in Ithaca, New York.

When Quentin Dupieuxs debut RUBBER came out, I thought we had hit peak cleverness. A tale of nothingness about a pyrokinetic tire on a mission of self discovery, observed by a crowd of film buffs watching from a safe distance in the California flatlands. From its ingenious use of practical effects, with a stellar cast featuring Broadway veteran Stephen Spinella and Ramrod himself Wings Hauser, Rubber is a perfectly surreal exercise in comedy horror. But Dupieux was just getting started, as his theatrical cinematic cleverness pushes new absurd boundaries with his latest film KEEP AN EYE OUT.

While the film involves Louis Fuigain (Grégoire Ludig) recounting his discovery of a dead body outside of his apartment building to police investigator Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde, of Man Bites Dog fame), I feel reticent to call this a “crime comedy” or any variation of the sub-genre. While a crime is the inciting reason for the narrative to begin, Dupieux’s film is pure comedy through and through. As the man relays his memories of the night, we see his train of thought in real time, able to interact with what the investigator is asking while reliving the night before. Without ruining some of the twists and turns of the plot, Fugain’s guilty conscious begins appearing in these spoken recollections, subverting what we expect from guilt driven Tell-Tale Heart-esque narratives. While Fugain may see a victim in his thoughts, he also begins to see people he met that night in the police station, cameoing in memories of the past.

It’s in these memories that the film really captures, for me, the same whimsy that I experienced watching Jean Pierre Jeunets Amelie. A darker, stranger whimsy but a similar motif all the same. Like when asked if Fugain can remember what time it was the night of the death, the clocks mimic his lack of memory by showing a clock face spinning its hands aimlessly or a digital clock counting up indefinitely.

In a tight 70 minutes, Dupieux focus’ all of his efforts onto the narrative, but that doesn’t mean the slickness of the films look suffers. On the contrary, KEEP AN EYE OUT has a vibrant glow with the cinematic colors of the 1970s: olive greens, golden yellows, and browns. Warm earth tones to contrast the cold dead body Fugain has discovered on his doorstep.

As the film progressed, I tried to put my analytical hat on and try and dissect some of the wordplay that Dupieux injected into the film. Is KEEP AN EYE OUT about the eccentricities of inadequate men in positions of power? Is it about shifting perceptions, an electric under current in the film as shifting perceptions is exactly what police have to do when assessing crimes? Or maybe it’s about how we phrase things, and how police can twist words emphasized by the Buron correcting how Fugain uses idioms like “freezing my tits off”. “That’s for women. You mean freezing your nuts off!” Buron declares. “No!” Fugain replies, “My chest region was cold, not my nuts!

Perhaps the film is about all of this. But also, perhaps not! It’s truly just a unique slice of strangeness after strangeness, like the fact the Buron has a hole in his chest where his cigarette smoke escapes, that is all just plain funny without the subtext and deeper meaning. While watching the film I kept remembering the opening monologue of Rubber, which after watching Keep An Eye Out, feels less like an opening and more of a cinematic artistic statement.

“You probably never gave it a thought, but all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason.”

Why do the things that happen in Keep An Eye Out happen? To quote Rubber: no reason. And it’s made all the better for it.