Keep an Eye Out: Just One More Thing, by David Bax
Tempting though it may be to say that Keep an Eye Out represents another step in the right direction for Quentin Dupieux after the surprisingly good Deerskin (the first of his film’s I’ve liked), it’s actually the other way around. Despite seeing a release here in the United States a year after Deerskin, Keep an Eye Out was actually produced and released in France first, back in 2018. In any case, both films share not only a committed late 1970s/early 1980s muted aesthetic (we might almost be convinced Keep an Eye Out is an honest-to-God period piece until one character mentions a recipe she found on “the Net”) but also an indication that Dupieux has something on his mind other than the empty idiosyncrasy that made his name.
Keep an Eye Out might be Dupieux’s most straightforward film or, at least, the one with the plot that’s most easy to describe without causing brows to furrow. Mr. Fugain (Grégoire Ludig), having discovered a dead body and called the police, now finds himself a suspect in the murder. It’s after business hours and he’s at the desk of Commissaire Buron (Benoît Poelvoorde) in an otherwise sparsely populated police station. As Fugain recounts the events of the night in question, we watch them play out in lengthy flashbacks.
There’s nothing self-evidently surreal about this set-up but that subtlety–uncharacteristic of Dupieux–is Keep an Eye Out‘s strength. Sure, there are odd touches from the beginning but even those come on quietly; the police station may not always having the sprinklers on like the office in Wrong but it does have a bizarre lattice of ceiling lights. It’s delightful, then, when things get stranger like, for instance, when the version of Fugain in the flashbacks becomes aware he’s in a flashback, with full knowledge of what’s about to happen and no ability to change it.
Beyond being surreal, though, Keep an Eye Out is often just plain funny. The dry prickliness of the interrogation yields the most laughs, as when Fugain is asked how he knew the person he found was dead when he’d never seen a corpse in his life before and responds, “I’ve seen lots of live people so I compared.”
Dupieux isn’t too interested in who actually killed the man Fugain found, which is good because it often appears that Buron isn’t either. Instead, the film revels in getting bogged down in inane specifics and dull minutiae. When Fugain needlessly includes the detail that, before discovering the body, he noticed he could see his breath and so amused himself momentarily by pretending to smoke a cigarette, Buron doesn’t admonish him for losing focus but instead asks follow-up questions. Keep an Eye Out is like an anti-thriller in which the cops are just trudging through the motions and trying to keep from getting too bored.
What perks up Commissaire Buron’s ears about his suspect’s story are not the things that could be clues but rather the bits that are entertaining or unexpected. Keep an Eye Out is a thoroughly enjoyable reminder that good storytelling is more about holding interest than coming to a resolution.