Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quentin Dupieux's REALITY

In 'Reality', the characters seem to be caught in surrealistic circumstances; of course, the director being a sort of absurdist/surrealist himself (Dupieux previously made Rubber, about a tire that kills people, and Wrong, about a man using telepathy to try to find his lost dog) wouldn't want it any other way than for his characters to be going through hellish/annoying circumstances, with things becoming weirder and more awkward as scenes go on.

Jason (Chabat) is a cameraman for a show that involves Dennis (Jon Heder) who interviews cooks while in a big rat costume. While Dennis is having a problem with a rash – eczema, he thinks, but, naturally, no one sees it because there's nothing there – Jason wants to try to sell a horror movie idea called WAVES about how televisions make people bleed and die. The catch for Jason, up against a prickly French producer named Bob Marshall (Lambert), is that he has to produce the moaning sound of anguish when one of the characters dies, and spends the better part of 48 hours recording himself moaning, or trying to get other people – who may be actually hurt in accidents on the set of the TV show – to moan for his recorder to appease the producer's demands. Why he doesn't get someone else to record? Why only 48 hours? Who knows, who cares, let's go with it.

But that's not all, folks! The film actually opens with a little girl, named Reality by the way (yep, played by Kyle Kenedy), accompanying her father as he hunts a wild boar. Not for food, just for taking everything out and stuffing for the wall. But as he is emptying out the remains, her eyes happen upon a blue VHS tape that falls out from the boar. Part of her goal for the rest of the film will be to get the tape and see what's on it (a Lynch MacGuffin out of Lost Highway perhaps, though that's where the Lynch comparisons mostly end aside from "he's surreal, he's surreal", they're different types). Meanwhile, Henri (Eric Wareheim, of Tim & Eric fame) is someone who likes to dress in women's clothes and drive a big green military jeep around town… but don't let his students find out!

Reality appears to be a string of surreal vignettes, and that's how Dupieux likes to have it. A more apt comparison than Lynch would be to Bunuel – at first I thought I might be getting a stream-of-consciousness series of cracked-comic episodes ala The Phantom of Liberty – though Dupieux here is also very interested in cinema itself, breaking it apart and seeing the ego and oddness that comes with the creative process. A running gag, for example, with Lambert comes as he views rushes for another filmmaker's work (and, apparently, he's shooting scenes of Reality in her own room just trying to sleep or think or whatever) and getting bored and distracted, or having conversations with Jason and taking a phone call every other moment.

I was waiting for the bizarre and the pleasantly absurd, and that's all well and good in this movie. I just wish it was funnier; much as it's amusing seeing Chabat moaning over and over into his audio recorder, or Heder with his not-rash (the former has more of a character, the latter has kind of a one-note gag and is an unfunny a-hole throughout), it doesn't really elicit the kind of BIG laughs one got from Rubber and Wrong, where it was so completely out there and yet still had a strong foundation for the humor to come from. This isn't to say it isn't a good surrealistic movie on the whole, and the aspect of dreams such as Jason seeing himself in the audience with mannequins about to maybe/maybe not get an award is fun (if, maybe, seen-it-before, done-that stuff frankly).

Things do get so warped in the last fifteen minutes that I finally accepted where the director was taking me on – a big reveal, and, (spoiler?) two Jasons at one point, make things very captivating and eccentric indeed – there is one scene that really works. Jason goes to the movies to try and give himself a few minutes to distract himself from his groan-recording mission by going to the movies with his wife. He suddenly notices a poster for another movie is playing there – HIS movie, WAVES, which he gets a ticket to and is currently in progress. It IS his movie, down to the blood and televisions and everything. He tries to tell everyone in the audience to stop watching the movie, since it's, you know, HIS movie. They don't take too kindly to that.

If you like weird, shot crisply in Los Angeles with intentionally enigmatic proportions, go for Reality. Are there better 'weird' things out there though? Sure.

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