Venice Review: Quentin Dupieux's 'Reality' Will Mess With Your Head
INDIEWIRE September 12, 2014 | By Kaleem Afta
Quentin Dupieux is stuck in a time warp. His new film "Reality" has a texture so washed out that it looks like it was shot in 1974 and has just been unearthed from some film vault in Paris. This is no accident. "Reality," just like his hilarious killer tire movie "Rubber," is an unapologetic tribute to B-movies — especially those with a high-concept plot, a dash of science fiction and actors determinedly chewing up the set.
There are several plot strands that come together like elegantly crafted origami. It's only by watching each fold intertwine that we arrive at the beautiful final product.
A young girl named Reality (Kyla Kenedy) witnesses her hunter father gut a hog and from the animal’s innards she spots a blue video cassette (remember those). She believes the cassette holds some big secret. Her wacky parents think she's imagining things.
Jon Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") plays Denis, a television presenter who wears a big rat suit when hosting a cookery show. Why? As fans of "Rubber" will surely have guessed, there is no reason. He's performing badly because he's got a big itch. He believes it to be caused by eczema. His doctor, and everyone else, think it's something coming out of his mind.
A cameraman named Jason (Alain Chabat), who works on the cooking show wants to cast Denis in a movie he is planning to make. Called "Waves," the project centers on television sets that kill people. Why? Because television makes people stupid. By placing the story in a video cassette age, the world of the movie has not moved on from the media targets of "A Face in the Crowd" or "Network."
"Steak" actor Jonathan Lambert reunites with Dupieux to play television producer Bob, whose office looks like it was designed by the architects of "Zabriskie Point." Bob agrees to greenlight "Waves," but only if Jason can with an Oscar-winning groan — the sound humans will make when they are being killed by their TV sets. He has 48 hours to achieve the impossible task — but that doesn't stop him trying. There is also a fine cameo from Tim and Eric star Eric Wareham, and John Glover plays a genius director, which could well be self-aggrandizement on the part of Dupieux. But credit where it's due: The directors, both real and fictional, brilliantly interweave each off-beat strand without detracting from the quirky humor.
There is nothing new in the idea of making a film about the merging of fact and fiction in the filmmaking practice: There were two others at the recently concluded Venice Film Festival ("Birdman" and "The Humbling"), and these arrived hot on the heels of Cannes competition entry "Clouds of Sils Maria."
But the beauty of Dupieux’s latest — which some viewers may find grating — is that it's guaranteed to leave audiences scratching their heads over which events are fact or fiction. There are no simple answers. The French-born, Los Angeles-based director has structured the action so that the different strands of the story collapse into themselves, as dream characters meet with television characters and the seemingly real ones later turn out to be movie characters. Confused? That's how Dupieux wants it. For those willing to play along, the experience offers plenty of rewarding surprises.
There is more than a hint of "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind" in the film's structure, particularly the way dreams and reality merge. Indeed, although aesthetically quite different, Dupieux and "Sunshine" director Michel Gondry share a playfulness in approach and brazen self-confidence that can be folly when it goes wrong — but here they flounder momentarily rather than end in car crashes.
There are some jokes that require knowledge of Dupieux’s previous work and trends in cinema to work. One of the more obvious examples is a movie theater showing "Waves," "Rubber 2" and "Wondrous State." There is also the moment that Chabat realizes the film he intends to write has already been made and with the same title. Was this Dupieux’s reaction to seeing the similarly-themed Matteo Garrone film "Reality" at Cannes two years ago? Regardless, Dupieux's "Reality" is the most fun and eclectic of the plethora of movies that have been made on this potent theme.
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'Reality' ('Realite'): Venice Review
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER August 28, 2014 | By Boyd van Hoeij
Filmmaker Quentin Dupieux's latest stars "Napoleon Dynamite"'s Jon Heder as an itchy TV host alongside comic Alain Chabat and actress Elodie Bouchez, who play a French expat couple in California
French director Quentin Dupieux is slowly but surely carving a niche for himself as the guy who makes weird-but-not-necessarily-funny movies, and his latest concoction, Reality (Realite), perfectly fits this description. The California-set film contains several bizarre storylines, including those of a French cameraman who needs to find the perfect groan so he can get his movie funded, a cooking-show host in a rat costume who gets real itchy and a little girl who's convinced a wild boar ate a mysterious VHS tape whole.
None of these semi-absurd tales are particularly funny, though there's some fun to be had in the film's second half trying to keep up with Dupieux's storytelling and editing skills, as he applies the logic of an M.C. Escher drawing to his tangle of stories. Realitywon't break the bank anywhere, though like Dupieux's previous films, such as Rubber and Wrong Cops, some festivals and VOD platforms might want to give it a go.
Jason (popular French comic Alain Chabat) is third cameraman on a terrible, four-camera cooking show hosted by the most uninteresting TV presenter of all time, Dennis (Jon Heder, ofNapoleon Dynamite fame). He presents the show in a rat suit, one assumes in a misguided attempt to make him more interesting (or perhaps as a kind of weird nod to Pixar'sRatatouille?). Dennis is convinced that a change of detergent has given him a rash, though the doctor he consults can't find anything except for an "eczema of the mind."
Things aren't much more normal in the storyline involving a precocious little girl called Reality (Kyla Kenedy), who sees her father empty a boar he shot and who spies a blue VHS cassette amidst the entrails, something her parents outright dismiss as impossible.
Reality's story and the mysterious cassette are part of a feature film being shot by the former documentary director Zog (John Glover), whose French producer, called Bob Marshall (Jonathan Lambert, from Dupieux's debut feature, Steak), of course, who's willing to invest in a barely-there template idea for a movie from Jason as long as he can find the perfect death grunt for all the characters that'll be wiped out by the deadly waves of evil TVs.
There's also a cross-dressing dreamer (Eric Wareheim, one of the two titular leads in Wrong Cops) who's a client of Jason's flighty psychotherapist wife (Elodie Bouchez) and the principal at Reality's school.
For roughly the first half, these stories are being constructed and mostly just odd instead of uproarious. Weird questions keep arising, such as why would any terrible cooking show shoot with four cameras, who names their child Reality or how would a girl not yet in high school even know what a VHS tape is? There's also not enough bite or freshness in the film's supposed satire of the U.S. television and film industry, and the storytelling tempo is surprisingly slow. One half wishes that the manic energy and let's-see-what-sticks mentality of some of Dupieux's previous films would have been present here, even if that approach often seemed to yield more misses than hits.
But things get more interesting in the film's second part, when Dupieux, who not only wrote but also edited the film, starts to go down unexpected rabbit holes to connect his stories. Even if it's unlikely to hold up to any kind of logical analysis, there is something pleasantly amusing about trying to follow and keep up with the film's narrative acrobatics.
The film's peculiar atmosphere is translated aurally by an almost constant use of composer Philip Glass's eerie, hollowly electronic 1971 composition Music with Changing Parts. This fitting choice also welcomely suggests that Dupieux, who's first career is that of a musician who performs as Mr. Oizo, has at least started to realize that he doesn't necessarily need to man every post on every one of his films. That said, the multihyphenate filmmaker did shoot this particular film again, this time in washed-out colors that range from sandy tones to faded blue jeans and with lots of arty shallow focus. Locations are also well chosen.
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