On this evening at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Susan Omand buzzed off to watch Mandibles...
Dear Netflix/Amazon/whoever, I need a TV series of Mandibles, starring Manu, Jean Gab and the marvellous Dominique, now please. This film from writer/director Quentin Dupieux (Deerskin) is your feature-length pilot and your possibilities going forward are endless. Thank you.
Manu (Grégoire Ludig) is a bum, sleeping on the beach, when he is woken up by one of his dodgy “friends” who has a job for him: pick up a suitcase from an unknown guy and take it, in the boot of a car, to another guy. Do that successfully, without asking what’s in the suitcase, and get 500 Euros for the trouble. Great! Only Manu doesn’t have a car. No problem – a quick wander along the street trying door handles gets him a faded yellow Merc that he hotwires and drives for the local garage to pick up his best buddy Jean Gab (David Marsais) who works there, when he’s not living in his parents’ basement, and they head off to pick up the suitcase and start their mission. However, before they even get that far, they hear a weird buzzing noise coming from the boot of the car…
So begins a fantastic, fun and utterly French comedy. I say that because, if you’re not a fan of the French, subtle but completely absurd, surrealist sense of humour, you might not "get" the film as it’s not slapstick silly or overtly joke filled but the characters and situations are understatedly hilarious - I’d seen the odd trailer beforehand but nothing prepared me for the wonderfully off the wall laughs that were to come.
I really don’t want to give too much more away but the general plot revolves around a series of vignettes after the introduction above, starting with a caravan hijack, where the unicorn bicycle, by the way, is a master stroke, through a case of mistaken identity, a shouty houseguest and a stolen dog, to a fuzzy, buzzy finale involving bananas. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make much sense. Neither did the film and that’s why it’s so much fun.
The casting of Ludig and Marsais as Manu and Jean Gab is perfect, both in look and character, and their friendship is highly believable as they communicate just as much with their expressions as they do with words. But the absolute star of the show is Dominique, the Labrador-sized fly. I was totally charmed by her coquettish mannerisms, the slight tilt to the head, the way she moved and reacted; she was realistically pet-like and you can tell that this is not all CGI, the animatronic work was spectacular. I also thought it was clever that we sometimes got a fly-eye-view of a scene, complete with multiple images and a background buzzing as she concentrated on what Jean Gab was telling her.
Every year, at Edinburgh Film Festival, I am surprised and delighted by one random film that I picked just because the concept tickled me. This year, Mandibles is that one and is my choice for Film of the Festival. I said at the start that I needed a TV series off the back of this and it’s true – I think it would make a tremendous half-hour “quirky” character comedy series in the same vein as Wilfred or My Name is Earl. If we can keep Ludig and Marsais as Manu and Jean Gab then so much the better, as they are both brilliant, but Dominique has to be in it - she is set to be a star.