Je sors acheter des cigarettes

Osman Cerfon

JE SORS ACHETER DES CIGARETTES | Questioning the unknown and untold

I’m Going Out for Cigarettes (Je Sors Acheter des Cigarettes) is a 2018 animated short film from French writer-director and animator Osman Cerfon. The film was nominated in the Best Animated Short Subject category at the 47th Annie Awards and the 45th César Awards. Cerfon is no stranger in depicting humour and the obscure in his work. Prior to I’m Going Out for Cigarettes, the French filmmaker directed a collection of short films titled the “Sticky Ends” saga— No Need to Teach a Bear to Fly (2010) and Like Rabbits (2013). 

The film follows 12-year old Jonathan, who lives with his mother La Mère and sister Louise, while men with identical faces occupy the small spaces of their apartment, such as closets and drawers. As well as the art style’s heavy use of primary colours, there is much more to delve into. The title may suggest the pop culture trope of the father going out to the store to buy cigarettes, but never actually returning, thus abandoning the family, but it is so much more.  “I remember when I was teenager, I was on the bus, looking at the male passengers and telling myself that one of them might be my dad and I would never know it,” Cerfon explains in an interview with Short of the Week creator Rob Munday. The “simple but multilayered story” utilizes the different genres of film (comedy, drama, and fantasy), coexisting in this world that we get to observe for only a short amount of time. 

From the mundane things Jonathan does every day such as playing video games, doing the laundry and playing cards,  he still ponders on things he’s not particularly sure about. Humans are curious creatures. We explore the complexities of life. We’ll never stop asking until we get answers. The film’s visual element of Jonathan interacting with the men with identical faces effectively puts us into a situation where we question their existence. Who are these men? Why is Jonathan seeing them? The evocative mystery lies within the effects of a person’s absence in one’s lives.

The focus on the things left unsaid effectively builds up to this mystery, uncovering the last missing piece of the puzzle. With themes of abandonment, we are introduced to characters as they deal with absence and loss differently; from the grief-like emotions of La Mère to the naivety of Jonathan and Louise’s indifference. 

Even in his absence, the father plays a pivotal role in the story. The idea of him drives the film forward as he has his impact on the family. This relatable and intimate story from Cerfon leaves us thinking about how absence and loss gravely affect us.

As we long for people who aren’t in our lives anymore, we begin to think about and see them almost everywhere. We seem to focus on the people and things that aren’t there. Thus, the striking image of these mysterious men living in confined spaces resembles Jonathan and Louise’s absent father.

Ralph Regis is currently a junior film student at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila, Philippines.