Review: 'Keep an Eye Out' Occupies an Absurd, but Cramped, Pocket Universe

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday March 5, 2021

Grégoire Ludig in 'Keep an Eye Out'
Grégoire Ludig in 'Keep an Eye Out'  

Writer-director Quentin Dupieux - the auteur behind nutso movies like "Rubber," "Deerskin," "Wrong Cops," and others - creates a hermetically sealed comedy that - when he allows it to breathe - feels fresh, but that, at other times, feels all too constrained.

Taking place mostly in the confines of a police station late at night, the film is framed as an interrogation between commissioner Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde), a cop who's skeptical and given to shirking, and Fugain (Grégoire Ludig), a hapless man who happened to stumble upon a body late one night in the midst of a host of circumstantially suspect events.

The setting has the submerged, suffocating atmosphere of a fishbowl; that sense of dislocation and hypoxia suffuses Fugain's uncomfortable tenure in Buron's clutches, as Buron chats on the phone, slips out for a chat with his (formerly) suicidal son, deflects work he's too lazy to do, and bullies his dimwit colleague Philippe (Marc Fraize). Struggling agaisnt growing hunger and fatigue, Fugain begs for a dinner break; Buron unconcernedly hands him a half-eaten candy bar that, besides having been chewed on, looks like it might have sat int a desk drawer for months.

That's only the start of a long night as Buron's interrogation drills deeper into Fugain's account of what happened on the fateful evening in question. Meantime, in the night that's playing out in the here and now, a dead body ends up being stuffed into a closet - a timeless "ticking bomb" sort of gag, as we wait to see how and when it will be discovered - a procession of Buron's colleagues, uniformly dull, wander through his office, and people pop, uninvited, into one anothers' recollections of past events, further muddying the central mystery.

It's not the gonzo ideas that end up feeling - as Buron might put it - "trussed," actually, but rather the film's structural limits. Even at 73 minutes the running time feels overly stretched, and while the set and lighting create an effective atmosphere, it's an itchy and claustrophobic one. The film's many flights of fancy provide some relief, but the pace could have been upped a few notches without losing anything.

What makes up for these shortcomings are the cast, all of whom are fully committed to the film's pocket universe of absurdities, especially Ludig (who balances cluelessness and cunning) and Poelvoorde (whose own balance of contradictory character traits he accomplishes with a sort of louche ease).

"Keep an Eye Out" premieres in theaters and virtual cinemas on March 5. Find full listings here.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.