“Smoking Causes Coughing” (2022) [Make Believe Seattle Film Festival]

by Mike Imboden

Normally here at “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict”, both Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. However, here and there they will be taking the reins in a solo outing. For this installment, it’s Mike with a solo review of Smoking Causes Coughing, the latest from French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux.

A group of super avengers known as Tobacco Force (Nicotine (Anaïs Demoustier), Ammonia (Oulaya Amamra), Benzene (Gilles Lellouche), Mercury (Jean-Pascal Zadi), and Methanol (Vincent Lacoste), are sent on a mandatory retreat by their boss,  Chief Didier (a green goo drooling, talking rat),  to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their sojourn goes wonderfully well as the team trades scary stories until - unexpectedly - their nemesis Lézardin the Emperor of Evil moves up his plan to destroy Earth.

The Good
If you’re familiar with Dupieux’s work (Rubber, Mandibles, and more), then you are in for yet another absurd, satiric adventure.  There’s a fun segment at the beginning that fans of tokusatsu like Power Rangers (Super Sentai), and Kamen Rider will enjoy involving Tobacco Force and an evil tortoise named Tortusse. 
All of the actors bring their characters to life with familiar personalities, and it’s because of these archetypes and their portrayals that by the end of the film you feel like you’ve been aware of Tobacco Force for more than just an hour and a half.
It’s the deadpan telling of the scary stories, which are wildly odd with a horror-bent theme, as well as the “this is normal” attitude of everyone involved, are what give Smoking Causes Coughing its humor, which was right up my alley.  Add in the tokusatsu touch and I enjoyed every minute.

The Bad
The storytelling by members of Tobacco Force (and a couple other characters), are fully realized short movies, so people who aren’t fans of anthologies may be turned off.  If that doesn’t do it, the humor and the often dark, almost always absurd, comedy may miss its mark with a lot of people.

The Verdict
I strongly recommend Smoking Causes Coughing if absurd, deadpan humor is your cup of tea as it is for me. If you’re expecting a lot of tokusatsu action with suitmation monsters causing trouble, you will be disappointed as there is not much of that aspect going on here.  Also, the anthology feel may turn a few people off, but honestly it doesn’t FEEL like an anthology, so that aspect could go either way.

Smoking Causes Coughing, from the Gaumont Film Company, aired on March 26th, 2023 as part of the Make Believe Seattle Film Festival

Smoking Causes Coughing
Directed By: Quentin Dupieux
Written By: Quentin Dupieux (screenplay)
Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste, Anaïs Demoustier
Run Time:  1h 20m
Rating: NR
Release Date: 2022 (France), March 26th, 2023 (Pacific Northwest), March 31, 2023 (US)