‘Le Deuxième Acte,’ Quentin Dupieux’s Open Letter to the Film Industry

Opening the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival Quentin Dupieux’s Le Deuxième Acte is a limpid commentary on the current state of French cinema.

Long before he turned to cinema, Quentin Dupieux was an emblematic figure of the French Touch, working as a DJ and electronic music producer under the pseudonym ‘Mr Oizo.’ Even then, he already had a love for the camera.

At the age of 50, Dupieux has become one of France’s most sought-after directors, attracting an ever-growing audience. Once an underground filmmaker, he’s now a heavyweight with whom stars dream of making films.

A prolific worker, with six films released in the last four years alone, Dupieux’s playful approach results in the creation of his own cinematic universe, leaving an often absurd, sometimes cynical but never vulgar mark on French cinema.

The Dupieux recipe is instantly recognizable: an ultra-deranged comedy mixing several genres, blending reality and fiction with a touch of black humor and an all-star cast, all within a timeframe rarely exceeding 1 hour. They’re low-budget films with a high return.

For the opening of the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the director returned with a new comedy containing twists and surprises. Le Deuxième Acte (The Second Act), released simultaneously in French cinemas, is a new ‘mise en abyme’ of the actor’s work, already one of the themes of his previous films Yannick and Daaaaaali!

Le Deuxième Acte boasts an A-list cast: Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Vincent Lindon and, a regular in Dupieux’s films, Raphael Quenard. In the middle of somewhere in the French department of Dordogne, two couples have long conversations, beginning in a parking lot and ending up at Le Deuxième Acte, a bar full of extras with a bartender petrified by stage fright.

Between two scenes, the characters – they’re all actors – share their states of mind, and behind the camera, Dupieux observes them and exposes them to their egos.  “I’m sick of being an actor!” screams Lindon, wondering what purpose he serves in a world on the brink of chaos.

With his delirious sense of humor, Dupieux points out the problems facing cinema today: empty movie theaters, impacts of AI, overdimensioned egos of stars, the bubble of the film industry and political correctness. “Do you want us to be canceled or what?” Garrel reminds Quenard at one point. Dupieux also pinpoints the behaviors that actors can – or can no longer – adopt in a post-#MeToo period.

In a note to journalists, Dupieux made it clear that he was declining all requests for interviews and refusing the obligatory passage of the promotional circuit. “It’s time for me to keep my mouth shut,” he said. Dupieux added: “The film, which is very talkative, says with well-chosen words everything I want to say, and already contains its own analysis in an extremely limpid way.”

Even if Seydoux jokingly declares in the beginning of the film, “Cinema is cool, it’s useless,” Le Deuxieme Acte is a declaration of love to the art of filmmaking, acting as a genuine invitation to make the journey to the movies.

In his true workaholic style, Dupieux is already working on his next film: a comedy with an extraordinary female character, due for release in January 2025.

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