Quentin Dupieux Puts the “Ick” in His Satirical Yannick

Movies Reviews Quentin Dupieux
Quentin Dupieux Puts the “Ick” in His Satirical Yannick

Yannick (Raphaël Quenard), the title subject of Parisian trickster Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist spotlight on humanity, is by all accounts dimwitted. Call an ordinateur portable by the long-accepted term “laptop” and you’ll short his circuits. Give him a keyboard and he’ll type one-handed at a glacial pace while making enough grammatical errors that instances where he meets the standards of basic writing begin feeling like mistakes themselves. His idea of a joke is intimidating a married couple into almost fondling each other in public, though this is admittedly a matter of taste more than intellect. But the greatest sign that Yannick is a few Adderall tablets shy of a full medicine cabinet is his art literacy, facilitated by an astounding display of arrogance: Interrupting a play in progress.

Yannick spotlights its protagonist’s vastly overinflated sense of self through this inciting event, during a production of Fernand Crommelynck’s Le Cocu magnifique, whose cast – Paul Rivière (Pio Marmaï), Sophie Denis (Blanche Gardin) and William Keller (Sébastien Chassagne) – can scarcely believe the gall of a person to stand up mid-scene and vociferously complain about his entertainment. Le Cocu apparently offends Yannick’s need to be mindlessly entertained. It makes him feel bad instead of good and this, in his calculus, is not what a play is supposed to do.

Dupieux pulls no punches conceptualizing Yannick as a delegate of entitled audiences everywhere: People who think that art, whether film or television or theater, exists to flatter them, pander to their wants – only theirs –and validate them through the embrace of a worldview that mirrors their own. (It’s easy to imagine Yannick enthusiastically buying tickets to the latest Marvel movie.) He at least stops far short of mindlessly chanting “go woke, go broke.”

Despite that point in his favor, he’s still mindless. The customer, Dupieux seems to say, is not always right, especially in scenarios like this, where the “product” is “art,” a subjective commodity — yet another argument made by the film itself. Yannick takes a stand against the attitude that, if the exhibit you paid your hard-earned money for doesn’t move you, the exhibitor owes you a refund.

Dupieux clearly has beef with society’s stubborn embrace of willfully bad art, because as crummy as Le Cocu is, Yannick’s own off-the-cuff attempt to write a better play, a process that takes up the film’s second half, is worse. But Yannick’s primary concern is compassion over culture. The selfish declaration that if you aren’t gratified, then no one else should be is a graver problem by far than Yannick’s broadly representative coarseness; in fact, Dupieux takes the perspective further through the introduction of that classic theater trope, the loaded gun — in this case, the revolver Yannick uses to wrest total control of the evening from Le Cocu’s cast. 

Yannick takes place almost entirely in the theater itself, with occasional cuts to the lobby. Dupieux’s camera placement and shot selection graciously show off the interior details, the kind that in highlighting the setting’s character, wind up making the setting a character unto itself. More than observers, we’re part of the audience taken hostage by the lead character, put squarely in their position as helpless bystanders in the absolute most pants-on-head silly standoff in the history of armed standoffs. The effect is surprisingly suffocating. Yannick has no idea what he’s talking about, period, but he’s not afraid to talk, or brandish a firearm he admits he’s bad at using, just to make sure he can talk. 

This is part of Yannick’s core entertainment as cringe comedy, and Quenard invests surprising care and empathy in his characterization, alongside casual stupidity and slack-jawed egotism. Buried under Yannick’s aggression and chafed emotions, he’s wanting for the basic need of being understood. This side of Yannick enhances Dupieux’s critique with a casual observation: Art is freeing, and without it, we’re doomed to lonesome misery. 

This might not be the expected insight from a filmmaker whose recent output includes a superhero parody (Smoking Causes Coughing), a fashion slasher (Deerskin) and a bromance-cum-creature feature (Mandibles) The wild disparity expresses the soul of Dupieux’s cinema: The liberty to say what he will with whatever material tickles him at a given moment. It’s the key motif binding his feature flights of fancy together. Yannick finds him looking unexpectedly inward and demonstrating a vulnerability that’s absent elsewhere in his body of work — but not at the expense of either his tongue-firmly-in-cheek outlook, or his predilection for self-destruction. 

Director: Quentin Dupieux
Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Raphaël Quenard, Pio Marmaï, Blanche Gardin, Sébastien Chassagne, Jean-Paul Solal, Laurent Nicolas
Release Date: April 5, 2024

Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin