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Film / Smoking Causes Coughing

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Smoking Causes Coughing (French: Fumer fait tousser) is a 2022 absurd comedy directed by Quentin Dupieux. Contrary to what its title may suggest it does not give much advice about health.

Five characters named Benzène, Methanol, Nicotine, Mercure and Ammoniaquenote  are a Five-Man Band named the Tobacco Force. Together they fight monsters from outer space in what is a parody of Sentai. They are lead by a rat named Didier, who appears as an ugly puppet voiced (and presumably animated) by Alain Chabat. They never meet him, all his appearances are video conferences. They are supported by a robot named Norbert 500.

Didier thinks that the team lacks cohesion, and sends them to a vacation in the countryside. They are expected to become a stronger team in preparation for a fight against a powerful villain named Lezardin (Benoît Poelvoorde).

During their vacation they tell stories, or are told stories by other characters. Each story's narration consists in a Short Film with its own cast (allowing for many cameos) therefore this film flirts with Sketch Comedy (although some stories are horrific) and Anthology Film. This routine is interrupted by calls from Didier who is worried that Lezardin might destroy planet Earth.

This film provides examples of:

  • Body Horror: In one of the short stories, a man has his feet trapped in an industrial woodchipper. Then things go worse. See also Eye Scream.
  • Calling Your Attacks: During their fight against the turtle monster, the Tobacco Force decide to cause a cancer attack; they surround their opponent and call their chemical compound (see Five Man Band). Mercure is said to lack sincerity in his calling his attack which causes some drama.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Used at the beginning, as a boy on a car trip with his parents asks them for an emergency stop and goes to do his business right next to the place where his favorite heroes, the Tobacco Force, happen to be currently battling a monster.
  • Deus ex Machina: Planet Earth is saved from destruction by Lezardin because he is killed by his own wife and son for an unknown reason.
  • Eye Scream: In one of the short stories, a man is stabbed in the eye.
  • False Friend: Ammoniaque gives some advice to Nicotine, which is later revealed to be quite hypocritical.
  • Family Man: Mercure is apparently the only member of the Tobacco Force who has a family of his own (a wife and two young daughters). When Chief Didier sends the team on a vacation, he complains about not having seen his family in a while but is quickly shut down. After the announcement that Lezardin is about to destroy planet Earth early, he goes straight to the team's Video Phone and makes small talk with his wife and kids while waiting for the end (until his call gets interrupted by Chief Didier to give them a solution).
  • Five-Man Band: Benzène, Methanol, Nicotine, Mercure and Ammoniaque form a team named the Tobacco Force. Together they fight monsters from outer space in what is a parody of Sentai.
  • Kavorka Man: Even though he is very ugly, Didier is very popular with the women in the Tobacco Force. He is also seen on two occasions with different women in his bedroom.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: After the Tobacco Force uses their cancer attack against the turtle monster, it explodes in an over-the-top shower of gore, which copiously douses the team and the onlookers.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The guy stuck in the woodchipper keeps insisting that he feels fine and repeatedly apologizes to his aunt (who's quite in disbelief about that part of the situation) for causing her so much trouble.
  • Public Service Announcement: Played with. The title is a parody of anti-tobacco public service announcements. Benzène tells a kid that smoking is very bad, but the Tobacco Force smoke when they are distressed.
  • Puppet Shows: This film uses several kinds of puppets and practical effects:
    • Didier is a Hand Puppet
    • The robots are animatronic puppets. The fish that Benzène catches also seems to be one.
    • The monsters that the Tobacco Force fight are not puppets but People in Rubber Suits. At some point a little girl looks at a video that they have made, and comments that the monster looks fake.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-Universe with Norbert 1200, which is sent to replace Norbert 500. The team isn't overly enthusiastic with him, as he's apparently much slower than his predecessor (Benzène tests him by asking him to calculate "one million plus one million" and it takes him almost a whole minute to give the answer).
  • Sentai: The main characters are an obvious parody of sentai shows that were popular France during in The '80s. However they are all dressed in blue. They fight ugly monsters played by People in Rubber Suits in a cheap outdoors places that looks a like former quarry. Some scenes feature Lezardin, an extraterrestrial villain, in what looks like a space ship in which he considers destroying planet Earth.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Every single short story told during the movie either has an underwhelming ending or no ending at all. The main story itself ends with the Tobacco Force smoking while waiting for Norbert 1200 to complete the change-of-era procedure which is supposed to save them (they're still waiting during The Stinger), unaware that Chief Didier has been attempting to reach them to tell them to abort it, since the threat is averted now that Lezardin got killed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first monster fought by the Tobacco Force is a turtle, and their leader is a rat, therefore one can easily think of the ninja turtles.
    • The rat is named Didier which seems to be a reference to Didier which was directer by Alain Chabat, who also acted as the titular character. Chabat voices (and presumably animates) the rat.
    • Lezardin seems to be a V reference. His name suggests (in a not subtle manner) that he is lizard folk and his makeup also looks like what these guys looked like when they started loosing their human disguise.
  • Spoof Aesop: When Lezardin dines with his wife and son, they ask him what he wants to destroy planet Earth for. He handwaves the question and claims that crazy people have doomed this planet already.
  • Super Drowning Skills: After taking the Tobacco Force to their retreat, Norbert 500 drives off to the end of a pier and into the lake, where he sinks, much to the team's confusion. Chief Didier later explains he was programmed to commit suicide at the end of the mission in order to make way for his replacement, Norbert 1200.
  • Visual Innuendo: When Norbert 500 comes to wash the blood off the team's costumes, they all laugh at the very suggestive placement of the nozzle of his water spray.