If you've ever seen one of Quentin Dupieux's movies — perhaps Rubber, a horror flick about a murderous tire (and a crowd of people who can't stop watching it), or Nonfilm, about an actor and film crew who try persevere in the production of a movie despite an onset massacre (and a lack of cameras or script) — then you know the director has a penchant for the bizarre.
Dupieux, aFrench filmmaker, recording artist, and DJ, appreciates the "absurd," expressing a more genuine relatability in movies that don't exactly seem like they make sense. His latest, Wrong, fits the bill pretty closely: an oddball falls into emotional disarray after his dog is kidnapped, triggering an impulsive pizza parlor employee to engage in romance with his gardener, and his neighbor Mike to leave town in lieu of admitting to anyone the horribly embarrassing truth that he likes to jog. You're probably cocking your eyebrows right about now... and trust us, the movie is just as strange, albeit highly entertaining and interesting, as it sounds.
As far as Dupieux is concerned, absurdity is real. He considers the structured, neat world of mainstream cinema, on the other hand, is far less relatable. "I think movies can be a little more like life, basically," Dupieux says, expressing his own drive to make films he feels emulate the absurdist poetry of the real world. "Movies are like movies. Even when a movie pretends to be a small story about real life, it is not like real life. It is like the movies. Even when you recognize yourself in a character, it’s just a projection. It is not like real life. It is made like a movie, it is written like a movie, and that’s why we like movies."
Dupieux wants to channel the sort of disarray he feels in his day to day for the screen: "I think life is more complex than movies. Life is really, if you look closer, life is really absurd, in a way. And when you watch a movie, usually everything makes sense. At the end, everything makes sense, everything is connected. And that’s not like life. Every day, I notice absurd stuff in real life. So, that’s what I’m trying to do."
And how does he go about this? While Dupieux feels that most screenwriters adhere to a certain formula, he trusts his gut. "I’m trying to write with my instincts. It’s like an exercise. It’s like a different job, in a way. It’s more like an organic process. I only trust my feelings, I only trust my instincts. I’m not even using my brain." Dupieux contrasts this with what he believes the norm to be in the industry: "Basically, what I do hate about mainstream movies is that they are all based on the same structure. Even if you compare a comedy to a science-fiction movie, it is the same structure. It is based on the same writing science, if you know what I mean."
Because of this independence from the mainstream writing science, Dupieux jokes that he is "a bad writer," saying, "I don’t know anything about the rules, and I’m not interested in learning the science of scriptwriting. So many people are doing it, we don’t need another screenwriter — or what they call a screenwriter. I’m not interested in being another ‘good writer.’"
Dupiuex veers from the norm primarily because he doesn't feel a lot of movies produce a lasting effect on audiences. "I’m not impressed [with the mainstream]. Only because I usually forget instantly — like, during the end credits, I already forgot about the movie ... I don’t like the idea of watching a movie, and then you go back home and you forget about the movie."
But the director does have some affinity for Hollywood blockbusters and network television: "Don’t get me wrong," he says, "I like the mainstream world. I think it’s important for the people to be entertained. You don’t need to get more when you watch, I don’t know, a James Bond movie. It’s fun to watch. It’s entertaining. And by entertaining, you completely forget about your life and your personal problems for 90 minutes. It’s like a ride." Dupieux adds, "I can watch stupid TV series just because they are well shot and they give you something you need, in a way ... I like to be entertained, that’s for sure." Ultimately, Dupieux's goal is to entertain his audiences as well, but "without using the same language."
On top of this, Dupieux seems to admire how much of a stronghold most big films have on their viewers' emotional reactions. "When I’m watching a big movie, I don’t understand how they manage to control the audience. I’m always impressed to see a big mainstream movie, or even a TV series. They know how to control what you are supposed to feel. And I don’t know how to do that." The director has mixed feelings on the subject: "To me, it’s almost scary. I’m not interested in doing this. I’m more interested in opening new spaces. I’m looking for some secret places.
Dupieux thinks there is something inherently valuable in the sort of form his films take: "I know it sounds weird. My movies are absurd. You can watch and think, ‘Nothing makes sense.’ But it’s much closer to the complexity of the human being," the filmmaker says. "Usually in the movie, you have the good guy and the bad guy. This doesn’t exist. I don’t know a good guy that is just a good guy. This doesn’t exist at all. Same for bad guys."
He continues on this theme: "It’s not a translation that’s supposed to make sense on the screen. It’s more like the real thing." In terms of Wrong specifically does Dupieux highlight this sensibility: "This guy, who can’t admit he loves jogging… at first, yes, it sounds like a stupid joke, or something you’ve never seen in real life. But actually, it is like real life."
On top of reality, Dupieux is also interested in one specific manifestation of the fantastical: dreams. "This weird world that we call dreams is something that I’m really interested in," he says. "The way you connect stuff in your dreams. When you’re dreaming, you always make weird connections between things. Sometimes, you have a character — it’s someone you know, and then in the next scene of your dream, the character is someone else. This type of thing that doesn’t make any sense when you wake up, that’s something I really enjoy as a dreamer."
And what about his other artistic ventures? While Dupieux seems to be able to express his thoughts on writing and filmmaking quite well, there is one realm that the multihyphenate doesn't exactly know how to discuss: music. "Music is only based on animal feelings," Dupieux says, struggling to define a formula or science behind the art. "It’s hard to describe why a piece of music is better than another one. You can’t really talk about music. It’s really hard. There’s no word to describe why Michael Jackson is better than everybody. You can’t really put some words on music."
Clearly, the man's appreciation for "going with your gut" extends across the board. Dupieux's imagination runs wild in his films, with Wrong topping the lot as a strange and tangential, but wholly fun and entertaining film. Wrong is now in select theaters and is available on VOD.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: Drafthouse Films]