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Artist and audience forge a toxic, love-hate relationship, in Quentin Dupieux's dirty, hilarious tribute to the (movie) theatre - in cinemas on Friday, April 5th

Somewhere in Paris, three actors deliver a comedy entitled Cuckold, about a woman leaving her husband for an older uglier man. There are no more than 20 theatre-lovers in the audience, who are thoroughly enjoying the performance. Suddenly, Yannick (Raphaël Quenard) stands up and interrupts the show in order to express his frustration. He is angered that he travelled for 60 minutes from the outskirts of the French capital in order to watch a play that makes him feel even more miserable than he normally does. The three actors Paul (Pio Marmaï), Sophie (Blanche Gardin) and William (Sébastien Chassagne) attempt to reason him to no avail. “This isn’t just about money”, an adamant Yannick argues. “I had to take a whole day off work and now I feel worse than ever”. He explains that he’s car park watchman, and that in three years a vehicle has never been robbed or even damage. It is therefore only reasonable that the three thespians should carry out their job just as duly.

What’s spectacular about Yannick’s tirade is that it neatly encapsulates the sensations that all of us have experienced when we sacrificed time and money in order to watch a play or a film that turned out to be painful. Our protagonist then resorts to some extreme measures, making us all regret we did not take matters into our own hands with a similar approach. Bad spectacles should never be tolerated. Overt criticism and sheer violence are the most appropriate response, we soon find out. Why should anyone be held hostage and under torture, without even being allowed to pee, for nearly two hours inside a (movie) theatre? Yannick liberates us from the shackles of etiquette and civility that inconveniently bind us to our theatre seats.

Gradually, the conflict escalates. The audiences become thoroughly entertained by the impromptu, real-life intermezzo. Allegiances suddenly change. Yannick is hellbent on proving that he is not as dislikable as he may seem. He eventually lets how guard down, giving the “hostages” the opportunity to react. Could Paul, Sophie and William turn the table, or has Yannick unearthed some inopportune truths, and taken the actors our of their comfort zone to very revealing results? The meta-stage becomes a place for confession and redemption.

Quentin Dupieux has penned and directed a pithy, robust and thoroughly entertaining 65-minute comedy that raises some very serious questions about the relationship between the artist and the audiences, and tests their connection to the extreme. An astute script, a firm directorial hand and a few good performances are the main ingredients for success. Yannick is a truly cathartic and refreshing film experience. Just make sure you come armed. And that your weapon is fully loaded!

Yannick premiered in the Official Competition of the 76th Locarno Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. Also showing at the Turin Film Festival. In cinemas on Friday, April 5th (2024).

By Victor Fraga - 04-08-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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