A police station, a suspect interrogated for hours and hours by a nasty inspector..., the scene has been shown over and over in hundreds of crime movies. One could go as far as to consider the thing as a sub genre in itself, its most masterful illustration being Claude Miller's classic "Garde à vue" (Under Suspicion). No one indeed has forgotten tough inspector Lino Ventura psychologically torturing an artful Michel Serrault over a night's time.
Well, there is no denying that "Au poste" (Keep an Eye Out) adds to a long long list but the good surprise is that it does it in its own, singular way. One can even affirm that such a "police interrogation movie" has never been seen before! Not so surprising if you take into account the fact that Dupieux has never once made what could be called a "normal" movie, let alone told the type of story that lazily unfurls between a beginning and an end, featuring stereotyped characters with predictable reactions. Such a conversion to stale conventions would in fact have constituted a total disappointment from a man who dared (and managed) to make a film around a... tyre killer ("Rubber") or else about a director who has 48 hours to find the best... groan of pain in film history ("Reality")! Well if conventions and clichés there are, they are here only to be challenged, mocked and demolished. And although one may in a way say that this is Dupieux's "most normal" work of all, you are sure to find a lot of oddities sticking out from the rigid frame of the police interrogation genre: dreams, flash forwards encased in flashbacks and others I will refrain from detailing not to kill the surprise effect.
What you'd better not do is mistake "Keep an Eye Out" for a "normal" movie. If you do so, you are likely to be taken aback and reject the whole thing. On the contrary, il you consider it as a reflection on a coded genre, you are on the right track to enjoyment. For, if you look closely, you will find that Quentin Dupieux's last opus works on no fewer than three levels, which is for those who perceive it a threefold source of pleasure:
- a plain crime story which, despite being crossed by whiffs of irrationality, remains basically believable. The situation itself, the story as well as the characters, minus their eccentricities, are indeed quite realistic. Moreover, the dialogues are well written, funny and uttered with talent by two masters of comedy, Benoît Poelvoorde (the bad-ass inspector) and Grégoire Ludig (the helpless suspect), both more sober than they usually are.
- a satire challenging the clichés and set pieces of the sub genre already mentioned: the charmless interior of the police station; the worn out, a bit sadistic interrogator and his dubious jokes ; the suspect maintaining his innocence without being able to prove it, the cigarettes, sandwiches, colleagues dropping in and out, ... It is all here, but in a slightly offbeat, farcical way.
- a commentary on the theatricality of such "in camera" dramas. Dupieux shrewdly plays on the fact that as soon as a murder is committed and suspects are interrogated, each of the protagonists 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.
To make a long story short, you will find "Keep an Eye Out" either an exciting or a senseless movie, depending on whether you play the game or not. I wish you to be in the second case.