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Act two: Quentin Dupieux opens Cannes 2024 with a stroke of genius

Quentin Dupieux brilliantly launches the 77th Cannes Film Festival

The second act, Quentin Dupieux’s thirteenth feature film, is undoubtedly the best film in his filmography. Of course, we could always prefer the story of a killer tire (Eraser), or return to his first “official” feature film, Steak, brilliant in the unique nature of its disappointments and punchlines. Or again, trying to stand out by cultivating his “Hollywood” period… But in the author’s journey in his itinerary of the absurd, every step – every film – is part of an inevitable empirical continuity that ends up making sense.

The second act
Act Two ©Diaphana Distribution

With Incredible but true, released in 2022, appeared as a clearer line, an emergency marked no longer by the absurd but rather by the reality in the face of this absurdity. For the first time (Reality AND The deer had paved the way), Quentin Dupieux proposed a discourse whose meta aspect as well as the themes addressed forcefully distanced us from pure creative farce.

Yannick sublimated this idea, definitively overturning the common relationship between the absurd and the real. In fact, it is the comedy that is performed that is absurd, and its character Yannick for his words are all too real. As after Incredible but true Smoking makes you cough brought the spectator back into a deep absurdity, Daaaaaali! then activated the same mechanism afterwards Yannick.

The second act it then appears as the new, and more complete, segment of this more “real”, straighter and more incisive line.

Stellar cast

In The second act, choosing to push its meta gesture to the max and engage in permanent chatter, it’s obvious the director wants to show something. Four actors, initially composed of pairs, head towards the restaurant where they have to shoot a scene. The camera of the film they are shooting is the same one used by Quentin Dupieux, so there is no longer really a fourth wall, when we finally understand that their texts and the comments they make about them, the “us” and the “outside”, everything is mixed.

Made by artificial intelligence, the film that Florence, Guillaume, Willy and David are making is therefore a film that does not exist – motif of the fictional film The second act -, just as it is The second act.

The second act
Act Two ©Diaphana Distribution

Added to this dizziness and the critical gaze on the irruption of artificial intelligence in the film industry is another. In fact, the actors play a not too caricatural fictional version of themselves and allow themselves to be undressed by the director. Which obviously makes you laugh and even cringe.

Vincent Lindon is mocked for his navel gazing, his alleged authorism, his nervous tics and his eyes became red. Léa Seydoux is described as an actress who spends her time “to bare oneself in French auteur cinema” to buy clothes and jewelry. Raphaël Quenard is very borderlinefirst releasing homophobic, transphobic and anti-Semitic comments, in front of a Louis Garrel worried to the point of cowardice about his condition as a nice guy and ideal son-in-law of French cinema.

Vertigo Raphaël Quenard

This self-deprecation of movie stars could be seen as the exclusive game of a privileged circle, but The second act it is not Jaws OR Smoking makes you cough, as it takes on its meta aspect so that we never lose sight of the fact that it is not Guillaume but Vincent Lindon, it is not Florence but Léa Seydoux that we are looking at. Until, in a final about-face, we understand that their self-irony and therefore their self-criticism concerns their acting characters, in the film “in the film”….

In front of its stars, a single anonymous actor gives the answer. He finally tries, as this actor, Manuel Guillot, appears for the first time on a movie set, and is so feverish that he can’t perform the only required action: serving them wine. His character consolidates it celebration of reality In The second actsince it embodies its final fusion with the little absurdity that then remains in the film.

The second act
Act Two ©Diaphana Distribution

We must highlight the great performance of Raphaël Quenard, who is actually a relation particular and continuous in Quentin Dupieux’s cinema since then Jaws. Newly recognized actor but already to all intents and purposes, holder of a power of truthfulness unique, shows its entire register, and as in Yannick best embodies this formidable irruption of reality in fiction, whether it’s absurd or not. Somehow, The second act echoes his short film The actorwhich very intensely disturbs the boundaries of play and non-play.

Work of art and approach to “non-film”

The “second act”, in the tertiary dramaturgical scheme, is the act where the crisis appears. It is also the name of the restaurant where the actors meet, after a first act – the longest, as usual – in which the characters and their relationships are established. Finally, the third, shorter part presents the resolution of everything we have just seen.

Therefore, Quentin Dupieux, while always doing what he wants, still respects the conventional rules of dramatic spectacle and consequently, like everyone else, fits fully into cinema. But inventing a monstrous work where his real film and his fictional film are in reality the same body and the same workhowever, it refuses to locate itself in “real” cinema as well as in “fictional” cinema.

When we met him for the release of YannickQuentin Dupieux had confided that he was always looking for “not cinematic“, title of his very first film made in 2001. A cinematic film that would be free from cinema. An a priori impossible equation…

With The second act, Has Quentin Dupieux finally made his “non-film”? Not yet, but it comes very close, with a hugely entertaining, delightfully jarring film, with bottomless drawers that grab us as soon as they’re opened. The actors have fun, especially in the simple tracking shots sequences, whose extreme durations convey the same irony than affection with which the director uses the devices of cinema. With The second act, Quentin Dupieux is at the top of his art. An art to which one can remain indifferent, but which is objectively masterful.

The second act by Quentin Dupieux, in theaters from May 14, 2024. Opens the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Above is the trailer. Find all our trailers here.

Source: Cine Serie

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