Tag Archives: Quentin Dupieux

LIST CANDIDATE: WRONG (2012)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , William Fichtner, , Alexis Dziena

PLOT: Dolph wakes up one day to find his dog missing; a mysterious Master Chang may have some information on the matter.

Still from Wrong (2012)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: With only two completed films under his belt so far, it’s already becoming obvious that musician-turned-filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is one of those auteurs whose vision is so defiantly offbeat that every movie he makes is likely to be a strong candidate for the list of the weirdest movies ever made. Wrong continues the absurd tradition Dupieux set in his debut Rubber, about a tire serial killer, only this time with even more focus on awkward, surreal comedy.

COMMENTS: Existential sad-sack Dolph has been having a rough time of it lately. It’s bad enough when you’re upset about losing a job at an office where the sprinkler system constantly soaks the workers, but to top it all off his beloved dog Paul has gone missing. His neighbor, a problem jogger going through a crisis of his own, is no help. His French gardener only has more bad news for him; his prize palm tree is suffering from an extremely odd disease. An unintentional romance with the girl who works the phone at the pizza delivery place only interrupts his attempts to telepathically connect with his dog. A detective who doesn’t want to see a picture of the missing pet but is obsessed with finding a stool sample isn’t very promising, but perhaps mystical entrepreneur Master Chang (played with irrational confidence by William Fichtner with a blond ponytail and an accent from nowhere) can help. Shaggy-headed Plotnik is surprisingly good as Dolph, anchoring us on our journey through this absurd world with his sincere bewilderment—although in one of the script’s arch meta-jokes, he accepts things like indoor rain at face value, while being completely confounded by incongruent details of pizza box logos. Even more important to the film’s success is his touchingly pure devotion to his missing mutt, which adds a note of genuineness to what would otherwise be a wry and arbitrary story with no emotional stakes. Although there is an ongoing plot, and each character has a unique arc and adheres to his or her own odd illogic, the movie is very digressive and inevitably feels a like a series of surreal sketch-comedy bits at times, almost as if Dupieux has been telepathically spying on the dreams of Monty Python cast members for ideas to fit into his dognapping script. Dupieux’s universe is like the comic world of , only turned up to 11, and with no philosophical pretensions. Wrong doesn’t arrive with the blindsiding strangeness of Rubber, but it does avoid a sophomore slump for the director, delivering unpredictable yuks along with an unexpected amount of heart. If this is Wrong, who wants to be right?

Dupieux’s upcoming project is titled Wrong Cops;he insists the story is unrelated to this film and the similar nomenclature occurs just because he’s “lazy with titles.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Answering the question ‘what’s weirder than a movie about a sentient car tire on a killing spree?’ Rubber director Quentin Dupieux gives us Wrong, a literal and figurative shaggy-dog story that takes its surreal kinks in stride.”–John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Caleb Moss, who explained it has “an intriguing mixture of deadpan absurdity and an eerie, low-key Lynchian undercurrent to the occurrences through out the film.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

LIST CANDIDATE: RUBBER (2010)

NOTE: Rubber has been promoted onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time; the official Certified Weird entry is here.

DIRECTED BY: Quentin Dupieux

FEATURING: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, , Robert the Tire

PLOT: A group of strangers is assembled in the desert, given binoculars, and told to watch.

Still from Rubber (2010)

Through their lenses they see a tire come to life, roll around, and develop explosive psychokinetic powers. A heavy amount of death and destruction follows.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: I think the “sentient rubber tire goes on a killing spree” premise is strange enough to consider it for the List, but the framing of the story as a metafiction involving some self-aware actors, a homicidal accountant, and frequent commentary from a famished “audience” reveals an added layer of weirdness as well as refreshing imagination.

COMMENTS: A number of flimsy wooden chairs sit haphazardly on a dirt road in a desert locale.  A cop car drives up and manages to hit everyone single one.  Police officer Lt. Chad (Spinella) pops out of the trunk of the car, takes out a glass of water, and proceeds to address the audience with ruminations on the presence of “no reason” in film.  Why is ET brown?  Why do the characters in Love Story fall in love?  Why doesn’t anyone ever go to the bathroom or wash their hands?  No reason.  Even in real life the phenomenon exists.  Why can’t we see the air all around us?  Why do some people love sausages and other people hate them?  No reason.  He explains that Rubber itself is “an homage to the no reason, that most powerful element of style.”

It’s nice to have a straightforward, bluntly in-your-face preface like that, especially when the film that follows really does its best to live up to the officer’s words. The story rolls along as aimlessly as its star tire, reeling in new characters and letting them go just as easily, and leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. There is never an attempt at explanation- how did this tire “wake up” and take on a life of its own? Just how much does it understand? Why can it makes things explode? Just who is in charge here? Everything can be chalked up to “no reason” and the audience can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Of course, not much actually happens in Rubber.  There’s only so far one can go with a silent killer tire in an isolated desert.  With pleasing special effects, Robert the tire rolls around, crushes a few bottles, mutilates a few wayward animals, and blows up the heads of whatever jerks get in his way while pursuing a pretty lady to a motel and enjoying the finer things in life, like late-night television programming.  The police step in when the bodies start to stack up, and conspire to destroy him through subterfuge.  Throughout it all, the squabbling “audience” in the desert gives their own commentary, cutting in during the requisite shower scene and other horror-movie clichés.  When the characters in the film sleep, they sleep.  It soon becomes clear that they’re trapped out there, left to the mercy of a sadistic “Accountant” (Plotnick) who takes his time feeding them.  The function of this audience is never explained (of course), but they seem to serve both as a satirical Greek chorus and a joke on the actual audience.

The concept and script begin to lose steam towards the end, but Dupieux smartly keeps his film to a trim 82 minutes, and the innovative meta-film approach, alarmingly high body count, and general irreverence ensure a fun (and weird) time is had by all. The hilarious performance by Spinella and the ridiculous ending give it an extra layer of enthusiasm.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“..an uber-cerebral spoof that is at once silly and smart, populist like a mildly trashy B-movie yet high brow like absurdist theater.”–Farihah Zaman, The Huffington Post (festival screening)