Smoking Causes Coughing | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Reuben, Alex and Sofia

22 Jun 23

Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas. 

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Here's some Fresh Takes on SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING, the new comedy from Quentin Dupieux (Rubber, Deerskin) that follows vigilantes "the tobacco force" on a week-long retreat to rebuild their team spirit.

Smoking Causes Coughing is coming to cinemas on Friday 7 July, but you can see it early at our Discover previews on Tuesday 4 July. Save the date - tickets will be on sale soon here.

Reuben (23)

Reuben is incapable of NOT talking about films (his friends must love that). His eclectic taste spans from pulpy B-movies to art-house classics, but his true love is gothic horror - the campier the better. He has a regular review slot on BBC Radio London and his filmy hot takes can be found on Instagram and Twitter @reviewsbyreuben. 

Reuben says...

Serving up a demented cocktail of rubber aliens, cartoonish gore and deadpan black comedy, musician-turned-filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's latest outing feels like the X-rated lovechild of Power Rangers and Monty Python.

Set in a delightfully retro-futurist world (think Thunderbirds chic) where superheroes are commonplace, Smoking Causes Coughing follows the exploits of the Tobacco Force, an Avengers-style squad sent on a team-building weekend after disharmony threatens morale. 

Taking a blissfully freewheeling approach to storytelling and filmic conventions, Dupieux eschews the action-centric traditions of the superhero genre in favour of chilled-out campfire hangouts where our heroes share scary stories. The juxtaposition of all-powerful superheroes and their domestic setting highlights the absurdity of the characters and provides fertile ground for bickering and exploring team dynamics. Furthermore, the tales they tell each other play out onscreen, darkly camp vignettes which add little to the plot but provide a rollercoaster ride of ridiculous and shocking entertainment.

Ultimately, Dupieux approaches filmmaking as though he too is gathering us around a campfire. His storytelling is knowingly messy, built to delight in the moment. There's no three-act structure here, nor much in the way of character arcs, but it doesn't matter - we're having fun. 

Not content to operate within one genre, he saturates Smoking Causes Coughing with at least four, cramming as many bodily fluids, talking animals and out-and-
out weirdness as the 80-minute runtime can take. The result may not work for everyone, but it's undeniably bold, barmy, and bristling with wit.

Alex, (23)

Alex is a London-based film student. Her love for movies is apparent in her taste in many genres, from rom-coms to thrillers, and she relishes the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a well-executed and satisfying ending. 

Alex says...

Quentin Dupieux is back with another wacky, low-budget absurdist comedy and this one might be the silliest yet. It features a group of tired avengers, the Tobacco Force, its members all named after elements of cigarette smoke – Benzene, Nicotine, Ammonia, Mercury, and Methanol – attending a retreat to rebuild their 'sincerity' in time to face their galactic enemy, Lézardin. 

Rather than staging a huge battle, Dupieux takes multiple detours, with his characters telling random, crazy stories by a campfire, their graphic, gory details best left unspoiled. As if the film wasn't wild enough, both of the Tobacco Squad's female members are swooning over their womaniser boss: a rat. No, really – a giant, green slime-dribbling rat, brought to life in the form of a mangy puppet. 

It's impossible to predict what's going to happen next in this film. Dupieux completely ignores regular superhero tropes, focuses on filling the film with gore and violence in the most nonchalant way, adding to the absurd humour throughout the entire film. 

Dupiux explains himself that Smoking Causes Coughing "never imposes any big speeches, and there is no moral of the story," claiming that it is simply "an unabashed source of inconsequential entertainment." It unmistakably is. 

Sofia, (25)

Sofia is a London based film student from Costa Rica. Her interests range from animated emotional films to thrilling dramas and satirical comedies. She is always open to watching films from new regions, or directors that she has never discovered before. 

Sofia says...

Smoking Causes Coughing introduces us to the Tobacco Force, a group of Power Rangers-esque superheroes who save the world from cartoonish villains. Contrary to their group and individual names, which represent the ingredients of a cigarette, they are an anti-smoking league who kill their opponents with targeted carcinogens.

At first sight, this might look like a child-friendly film. However, it rapidly deviates from its form through the use of extreme gore in the most surprising moments – and with eccentric director Quentin Dupieux at the helm, this comedy-action adventure will never bore you.

This was truly one of the most unique films I have ever seen in the cinema. The narrative style used is as startling as its comedic timing, with its enthralling structure jumping through multiple vignettes in its short 77-minute running time. Through these adventures we discover different worlds where separate foolish tragedies happen. Each one is more absurd than the next, and the viewer laughs in the most unfortunate moments, never knowing what to expect.

The visual style of the film, recalling the retro visuals of sci-fi from the previous century,  helps the viewer immerse themselves in the farce happening on screen. The main performances are light and humorous enough to carry the story forward, with the superfluousness and humour of the story, themes, and characters solidifying what it's all meant to be: nothing more than a joy to watch. 

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