Smoking Causes Coughing: Vive les super-heros

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has a worthy rival in this French Power Rangers spoof

Smoking Causes Coughing
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Director: Quentin Dupieux
Cert: 16
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Lacoste, Anaïs Demoustier, Jean-Pascal Zadi, Oulaya Amamra, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Running Time: 1 hr 18 mins

The quirky back catalogue of French filmmaker and electronica noisenik Quentin Dupieux has, to date, featured a psychokinetic demonic tyre (Rubber), a gigantic fly in a car boot (Mandibles), and a murderous motorcycle jacket (Deerskin).

This new demented spin on Power Rangers notches up the crazy as some of France’s most respected actors don metallic codpieces and square up to a towering rubber tortoise.

Together, Benzene (Gilles Lellouche), Nicotine (Anaïs Demoustier), Methanol (Vincent Lacoste), Mercury (Jean-Pascal Zadi), and Ammonia (Oulaya Amamra) are Tobacco Force.

Dieu fumeur de havanes, performed by Catherine Deneuve and Serge Gainsbourg makes for an appropriate opening number. On the beat, the Tobacco Force discourage children from taking up the habit; at home, they are less averse to bad habits.


A wildly inventive anthology, Smoking Causes Coughing skips between zany plot ideas as the Spandex-wearing heroes, sojourning in the countryside as part of a team-building exercise, swap campfire tales.

Imagine Goosebumps retooled for Adult Swim.

One cheerfully gory story sees an upbeat worker fall afoul of a woodchipper; another features a sinister “thought helmet” and the beautiful Adèle Exarchopoulos in an outlandishly hideous wig.

Nobody blurs the lines between homicidal violence, surreal comedy, and hilarious attire quite like Dupieux.

There’s more giddy subversion in casting Anaïs Demoustier, the sensual star of Anaïs in Love and Along Came Love, as one of several women characters lusting after her drooling rat-puppet commander.

Lighter and sillier than some of the director’s more Dadaist constructions, Smoking Causes Coughing features a supervillain called Lizardin who wants to destroy the Earth and a gaggle of visual funnies. Justine Pearce’s kitsch costumes are delightful; a futuristic refrigerator opens to reveal a counter with an attendant behind it.

Dupieux, as ever, writes, directs, shoots, and orchestrates the madness. This isn’t as conceptually neat as Deerskin nor as playfully intertextual as Rubber, but it’s consistently fun.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic