Quentin Dupieux still toying with Reality
by Domenico La Porta
- VENICE 2014: The latest absurd comedy by the director of Rubber was presented as a world premiere in the Orizzonti section of the 71st Venice Film Festival
It was out of the question for the French jack of all trades to let the dust resettle after it had been churned up by the telepathic tyre of Rubber [+see also:
film profile], his second film, which really left its mark on the international bizarro-hype film circuit, where Quentin Dupieux (known as Mr Oizo in the music world) has been firmly entrenched since 2007’s Steak [+see also:
film profile], his feature debut and the only movie that he would ever make entirely in French. Over the course of the past year, Dupieux has put his name to two feature films shot in the US: Wrong Cops [+see also:
film profile], his most “conventional” movie to date (filmed entirely in English), and Reality [+see also:
film profile], a Franco-Belgian production that blends French and English in a retro-kitsch Californian setting, where anachronisms abound.
Dupieux’s comedies always verge on the absurd, and he has some great screenplay ideas. In Reality (the name of a young girl in the film), Jason (Alain Chabat) is a trashy-TV cameraman who dreams of directing his first horror film, but when he pitches his idea to producer Bob Marshall (Jonathan Lambert), he agrees to sign on the dotted line on one condition: Jason has 48 hours to find the perfect agonised groan, one which would earn him an Oscar. Jason’s quest gradually starts to turn into a veritable nightmare that threatens to lose the poor man in its surreal twists and turns.
All of the actors, whether American or French, are excellent, and Quentin Dupieux really has a Tarantino-esque flair for writing his characters and making them work well together.
Reality only makes sense when you look at it as part of the director’s overall filmography. Its offbeat tone will not disappoint his fans, who will still be able to appreciate the nonsensical elements, the quasi-Hollywoodian cinematography and a certain intelligence in the writing style, all bathed in a moody electronic soundtrack that brings to mind John Carpenter's early works. Dupieux shoots at breakneck speed and leaves no room for fine-tuning. He tries things out before moving on to something else, and underneath the existential storyline, which from a distance could bear similarities to a David Lynch film writ very large, there is unfortunately a piece of work that has been rounded off clumsily using the tricks found in “dream” stories, in which the structure conforms only to oneiric logic. Character splitting, blending time periods and realities, and schisms in time are perfectly acceptable in and of themselves, but when laid out end to end, they create nothing more than a bunch of sketches — sometimes very funny or even sublime ones — to the detriment of a unique work with a carefully thought-through purpose.
Reality has a disappointing ending — in fact there isn't one — and although the director insists that this was exactly the effect he was looking for, that doesn't mean that the audience was not entitled to expect the little bit of extra care and attention that would have made Reality the director's best film to date, and a decent, intelligent comedy to boot. Not one to be taken too seriously…
(Translated from French)