On the stage of a Parisian theater, a bad vaudeville show, Le cocu, stars Paul Rivière (Pio Marmaï) in the title role and Sophie Denis (Blanche Gardin), who plays his adulterous wife. In the half-empty room a man stands up, Yannick (Raphaël Quénard), a night parking attendant. He is unhappy. He took a rare and precious leave of absence, came from his suburbs, 45 minutes by public transport and 15 minutes on foot (he specifies), to see this boulevard theater that was supposed to entertain him.

Yannick believes that he is not getting his money’s worth and he lets the troop know this. He doesn’t just slam the door on his way out, he launches into a tirade and stops the performance dead in its tracks. “I pay to change my mind,” he says, complaining in the same breath about the absence of the director. It’s as if the cook wasn’t at the restaurant, believes this young man with fragile psychological health.

French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (The Daim, Fumer makes cough, Daaaaaali!), author of absurd and offbeat comedies, offers an original and relevant reflection on art and entertainment, the relationship with the public and class contempt. The tone is less zany than Dupieux’s usual tone. Yannick is a tense camera with very dark humor. An irreverent and devilishly effective style exercise lasting barely an hour.

Blanche Gardin is very convincing in the role of a bad actress, Pio Marmaï is just as convincing as a disenchanted actor who dreamed of being Belmondo or Dewaere and who plays mediocre plays. But it is Raphaël Quenard, as a desperate antihero, lacking love and recognition, who steals the show. Quenard is very adept at sustaining the unease, with his character’s mixture of candor and inappropriate comments. The tension he maintains and the humanity he exudes with his simple gaze are remarkable.

What is art for? Is a show worth more than any service for which an average spectator has paid x amount? Is there an obligation to achieve results in culture? Quentin Dupieux asks questions about artistic performance and pretension, about elitism and anti-intellectualism, with extraordinary comic acuity. So much so that we end up feeling empathy for this rude spectator who shakes up not only conventions, but many received ideas. If only for that, this unpretentious little UFO is worth the detour.