30 August 2014

All WRONG

Some days ago I was talking about movie directors from an earlier generation whose scenes, at times, remind me of David Lynch's films -- I mentioned the names Samuel Fuller and Billy Wilder. My aim was to locate the seeds of Lynch's style in work that predates his own movies. If I shift my focus to the present generation, one name that stands out to me is Quentin Dupieux... Of all the directors whose place on the timeline comes genuinely after Lynch, I think Dupieux is the most interesting... I should stress from the get-go that I'm basing my opinion on just a single one of his films, titled WRONG; but I’ve watched it several times now - & it becomes more fulfilling with each new viewing...

I remember that I was wary about WRONG before I saw it, on account of its cover blurbs, but the movie turned out to be far better than I would have dared to hope... (It's precisely because I love surrealism that I get suspicious about any film that's marketed as 'surrealistic' - the ad copy writers just have never quite understood what it's all about.) WRONG is one of those works that, at the same time, bars interpretation AND demands to be interpreted... so the conversation surrounding it never ends (& for me, that's a good thing - I hate when conversations end)...

I know that the entire movie falls under the label "absurd", but, regardless of whether or not Dupieux intended this, I'm thankful that almost all of the individual scenes & moments have a human spark, a human center (even if that center's slightly uncomfortable) -- I mean, I think that most of the film's weird little confrontational scenes effectively reveal the psychological tendencies in humankind, and they comment on human relationships in a way that I find useful and interesting... Amid the absurdity, there's a constant current of genuine social concern -- in scene after scene, the movie provokes its audience to think and perhaps even to change, similarly to how certain prophets in ancient times provoked the people of their own day: by committing strange, poetic acts -- these acts lure us to consider ourselves in a new light.

I remember Werner Herzog making the distinction between "the accountant's truth" and "the ecstatic truth"... That last way is Wrong's way, I think... Taking just one instance (which, to avoid spoiling the details, I'll keep necessarily vague), the scenes in the office are absurdly funny on the surface, but underneath (that is, in a SUR-real sense) they're accurate, figurative representations of human psychology - they present us with the ecstatic truth of office life. And, in its representations of social interaction, even in the WAY that it goes about satirizing the commonplaces of society, it reminded me of many moments in Buñuel's movies - specifically THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY.

Any filmmaker who can bring to mind Luis Buñuel is definitely doing at least something right.

Dupieux is a new artist at the beginning of his career, so I’m especially excited to know about him -- it’s pleasant to anticipate his unmade, future films. Even if his next movie doesn't manage to live up to my now-high expectations, I can't imagine that Dupieux will let it fail in any way except colossally, with confidence... and I'd rather watch a heroically drastic failure than a timid success.

That's another thing I love about David Lynch, by the way -- he's not afraid to let his experiments fail, but he never does so without an almost arrogant level of confidence, which I find invigorating. The first Lynch movie that I ever saw was BLUE VELVET – I watched that right when I got out of high school, and it transfixed me. WRONG brought out that same kind of thrill in my heart: I was amazed to see how much untapped power was still available in cinema.

It's easy to see him as a descendant of Lynch, but Dupieux is his own man – WRONG has its own personality and its own kind of humor. It shares certain strengths with Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE, but it also deviates in very strong and satisfying ways. (I say that as a mad lover of both films.) WRONG surprised and pleased me as much as another of my personal favorites: Charlie Kaufmann’s SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK.

The disc of the film comes with a funny little pamphlet-style replica of the book that is seen throughout the movie, and it contains a really informative interview with Dupieux, who not only directed but also wrote, edited, did the cinematography, AND even made sound effects & music for his film. Here’s a quote of Dupieux that wins me over, from the booklet’s interview:

...I refuse to take on the role of the director who controls the spectator. Instead, I like this idea of anxiety and uneasiness that the film generates. What a person should be thinking about this or that scene, is each viewer’s problem, not mine. The science of directing the viewers is not my cup of tea. There are already a lot of directors who do that very well. I prefer to build my own domain, which is to create the sense of unease.

And here’s one more quote from the same booklet. Dupieux is explaining to the interviewer why he doesn’t ever want to acquire a “filmmaking style”:

...I find artists who have a style boring. It’s too easy. When you know how to do something, I find it rather lazy to do it again.

Now, this, by way of postscript: If you hear or read anyone mouthing anything negative about the movie WRONG, I assure you that it’s only because they don’t know how to watch it. It's that same old law: people are scared by anything new, especially if it’s genuinely poetic.

Archive

More from Bryan Ray