Cannes can at all times do worse than select a comedy for its opening gala, and the competition is off to an amiable, entertaining begin. Quentin Dupieux brings the wackiness onstream with this cheerfully mischievous, unrepentantly facetious fourth-wall-badgering sketch. It’s a sprightly meta gag, a film a few film, or maybe a film a few film a few film – or maybe only a film, full cease, whose level is to say that actuality as we expertise it inside and outdoors the cinema is unitary regardless of the degrees of imposture and role-play we deliver to it. It’s all only one unbroken skein of expertise just like the infinite dolly-track (the momentary rail that lets the digital camera transfer easily) that Dupieux lastly reveals us.

There are many chortle strains, although The Second Act could be a bit skinny have been it not for the wealthy, creamy thickness of the alpha-grade French appearing expertise concerned. We see a nervy, sad man referred to as Stéphane (Manuel Guillot) open up his restaurant in the midst of nowhere, quibblingly referred to as The Second Act. Two younger males are seen strolling in direction of the restaurant: David (Louis Garrel) and his pal Willy (Raphaël Quenard, from Dupieux’s earlier movie Yannick). David has a date there with a lovely girl, whose clinginess and neediness he nonetheless finds a turnoff, so he’s introduced Willy alongside to seduce her and take her off his arms. This girl, Florence (Léa Seydoux) is making ready to satisfy David, unaware of his plans to palm her off on another person, and so assured is she that David is the One which she has truly introduced her dad together with her, Guillaume, performed by Vincent Lindon.

The actors taking part in these components maintain breaking out of character, and quarrelling amongst themselves – although with out anybody saying “Lower!” The motion strikes seamlessly out and in of the obvious ranges of fiction and actuality, maybe because of the novel manner it seems to be directed – by AI, a robotic voice from an avatar on a laptop computer held up by a lowly runner.

Dupieux naughtily pokes enjoyable on the progressive scruples of the movie business; one character seems homophobic and transphobic till the movie suggestions us the wink that that is simply an phantasm. Or is it? The Second Act even takes the mickey – on the identical provisional, inauthentic foundation – out of #MeToo activism, a topic the business takes very severely certainly. And but Dupieux additionally does plenty of gags about unhappy losers taking their very own lives by capturing themselves; now, some may discover this as uncomfortable and contentious as the rest, though it’s introduced as fairly separate from the self-aware jokes about foolish liberal wokery.

The Second Act is an odd movie in some methods. For all its understanding and arch angle, it’s weirdly unsophisticated and even undemanding, extra undemanding than Dupieux’s earlier comedies corresponding to Smoking Causes Coughing and Unimaginable However True. There isn’t any actual pressure or revelation within the discrepancy between true and false, and the actors will not be supposed to truly be Garrel, Seydoux and so forth as they might be in the event that they have been showing in, say, an episode of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. And but Guillaume is over the moon a few job supply from a real-life director: Paul Thomas Anderson lui-même.

The working comedian theme of The Second Act is that there’s something principally very foolish about appearing in movies; pretending to be made-up individuals in made-up tales when there are essential issues happening on this planet which want grownup individuals doing correct jobs. Florence’s mom is a surgeon and is candidly unimpressed by her daughter’s profession – however Florence is satisfied that actors’ work is legitimate, just like the magnificent heroism of the musicians on the Titanic who continued to play because the ship sank, to calm and luxury the passengers. Guillaume contemptuously laughs that that is simply an city fantasy, a fiction invented by James Cameron, and solely naive idiots consider it. It’s an amusing piece of mischief on Dupieux’s half, designed to get individuals Googling the Titanic musicians after the movie is over. Maybe there’s nothing a lot to The Second Act, however the soufflé of self-awareness rises tastily sufficient.

The Second Act screened on the Cannes movie competition.

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