At a time when cops are under fire — from Derek Chauvin to police officers who can’t tell a pistol from a Taser — I wanted to step back and remind myself that law enforcement is meant to be the barrier between citizens and criminal elements. “Protect and Serve” are the words we see on the side of many police cars.
However, the relationship between the police and its citizenry is complicated.
“Policing is one of the most ubiquitous professions depicted onscreen,” notes The Hollywood Reporter. Movies depict police in many ways. From guns-blazing Untouchables to heroes without capes to silly buffoons with badges to bad apples.
“The increasing visibility of criminal justice groups led by young and vocal activists has started to demand a much more complex look at how the system is portrayed,” says Variety.
One approach to dealing with a difficult subject is humor. As George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “If you’re going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you!”
“Keep An Eye Out” filled that bill, kinda. Not only is it funny, it’s insane. A “deranged delight,” it has been called.
This surreal black comedy is the latest outing by French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (“Wrong Cops,” “Reality”). In the music world, Dupieux also goes by the name Mr. Oizo.
“Keep An Eye Out” (original title: “Au poste!”) tells the Kafka-esque story of an Average Joe being accused of a murder by the police. Seems he stumbled across a dead body on his front step and the cops consider him the most convenient suspect. The ongoing interview is a mixture of reality, memory, and dreamlike imagining. It pits our suspect Fugain, (Grégoire Ludig) against Commissaire Buran (Benoît Poelvoorde), who is described as “a good, bad cop.”
To the very end, Le Commissaire is out to get his man.
The mind-bending plot also involves the weird death of a one-eyed rookie cop, a strange way of eating an oyster, and a break-the-fourth-wall theatrical performance. The twisty denouement will leave you shaking your head.
Dupieux’s approach to storytelling is mindful of Luis Buñuel, the Spanish filmmaker who, with the help of Salvador Dali, gave us the absurdist surreal short film, “Un Chien Andalou.” Like the master, Dupieux uses dream logic and disjointed time to tell his unconventional story.
Many viewers describe “Keep An Eye Out” as “definitely very weird,” “uniquely weird and bizarre,” and “not a normal movie.” Another concluded, “You will reject it or you will embrace it!”
If “Keep An Eye Out” is your cup of poisoned tea, you can find it on such streaming video platforms as Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu – and in the virtual cinema program at the Tropic.
The movie is in French, but the subtitles are large and easy to read.
The Hollywood Reporter summed it up: “Like Dupieux’s other movies ‘Keep an Eye Out’ is chock full of bizarre happenings that don’t really add up to much but are nonetheless well orchestrated and amusing to watch.”
No, there’s more here than that.
As one insightful moviegoer explained it, you can approach this movie on at least three levels:
1. A crime story, a typical “police interrogation movie.”
2. A satire that challenges the clichés found in such police movies.
3. A commentary on the theatricality of crime dramas, that “each protagonist seems to play a role written in advance and is at a loss as to how to extricate themselves from having to live out that role.”
Just like in real life, where the protagonists in our current policing crises we see on the TV news seem destined to play out roles in which the good guys and bad guys sometimes become confused.