What started off as a curiosity (a famed elektro producer directing a feature film) evolved into something bigger, something more substantial. Sure enough, everybody was shouting "No reason" after seeing Rubber, but there clearly is more to the work of Quentin Dupieux. There's a method to the madness. Reality [Réalité] is Dupieux's latest film, and while a little less overtly humoristic it's still as mind-bendingly insane as the other films he directed.
Comedy and horror are never far off when watching one of Dupieux's films, but it's not what keeps you glued to the screen. Not that his films aren't funny, far from it, but so are many other films out there. What distinguishes Dupieux from other film makers is his dry, almost sneaky sense of absurdity and surrealism. It's impossible to miss, yet Dupieux never flaunts it. From the plot to the visuals and even the soundtrack, the film is soaked in weirdness that throws you off every time the film takes another turn. And believe me, Reality is quite the rollercoaster.
When talking mindbenders, David Lynch's shadow is always lurking in the shadows. There are traces of Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway here, but it's not as if you're watching a carbon copy. The horror portion of the film seems eager to reference Cronenberg's early 80s work (Scanners and Videodrome more specifically) and the meta-director element is not quite unlike the one found in Hitoshi Matsumoto's R100, but when all is said and done Reality is like none of these films and manages to be its own thing rather than a copycat of others.
It's pretty much impossible to recount whatever plot there is. There are several subplots laid out at the start of the film, after a while they begin to intersect, double down on each other and just confuse the hell out of the audience. From the girl finding a blue videotape in a hog's stomach to the TV presenter suffering from an imaginary itch, to the director sitting down in a film theater only to find himself watching his own, yet to be directed film ... Reality is one big happy mind fuck that enjoys taking its audience for a ride.
There's still room for progression on the visual side of things. There's a lot of visual comedy (that works well) and Dupieux has a clear visual signature (he's his own cinematographer after all), yet some scenes ended up looking a little too drab and bland for my liking. The washed out look of Reality is functional to a point, but I'm certain a similar effect could've been achieved while still being a bit more visually attractive. And even though the camera work is deliberate and precise, the framing leaves a little to be desired.
The soundtrack is pretty interesting, in the sense that's it's really just a single song that gets repeated throughout the film. Mind you, it's pretty effective. It adds to the mysterious atmosphere in a way that's reminiscent of Badalamenti's work for Lynch, only it sounds like it was made with the sample set of Carpenter. It's a simple tune, but the repetition and the right amount of reverb make it into an almost trance-like experience. Just leave it to a music producer to produce an effective film score.
Dupieux's slightly larger budget clearly allowed for some bigger names on the poster. Alain Chabat is superb as Jason Tantra (the director), Jonathan Lambert puts in an excellent performance as the eccentric film producer. There are also substantial roles for Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) and Kyla Kenedy, a child actress with some actual talent beyond looking cute on camera. And Daft Punk fans are in for a treat, as Thomas Bangalter has a rare, mask-less cameo. On the whole it's an interesting cast that seems to be all in on the joke.
Just like Wrong, Reality starts off rather slow. It needs that time to put all the pieces in the right place, before Dupieux can start shuffling them around at will. The first half hour is far from bad though, there's already plenty of weird stuff to keep the audience entertained, but it's still well within the realm of the acceptable. After that the film turns completely bonkers and all that's left to do is watch and take everything in. Whether you'll appreciate this will probably depend on your tolerance of the absurd, personally I loved it to bits.
Reality is a solid new entry in Dupieux's oeuvre. It's getting harder and harder for him to hide behind his "no reason" catchphrase, as it is abundantly clear there's a lot more going on than just random filmmaking. There's a clear vision and methodology binding his films together. If you didn't appreciate Dupieux's previous films there's only a slight chance you might be up for Reality, fans of Dupieux on the other hand can go in blind. The less you know about this film, the more fun it will be experiencing the absurdities it throws at you.