Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Cinema File #117: "Wrong" Review

I've never seen Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, the 2010 French film about the killer car tire with telekinetic powers. I vaguely remember hearing about it when it first came out and making a note to see it at some point, but I never got around to it, despite the bizarre concept being right up my alley (no pun intended). I've just finished Dupieux's follow-up, an odd little movie called Wrong that I can only assume is an expansion on the surrealist themes of his previous work, and much like the narrative of the film, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, there were many things I very much liked about the film, so much so that I am excited to go back and watch Rubber to see what I missed, but on the other hand, so much of Wrong is just, well, wrong, to the point where I don't know if I can recommend it to most people.

I suppose that isn't too strange under the circumstances. I mean, I don't think I would be able to recommend a French film about a psychic tire to everyone even if I did end up loving it, but by comparison, this new story seems both much simpler, and much weirder. The synopsis is deceptively mundane, a man finds his dog missing and goes on an adventure to find it, but the execution is what makes Wrong so much different than anything I'd wager you'll see all year. The world of Wrong is a deadpan absurdest hell scape, pleasant and ordinary on the surface, but governed by no clearly established rules in practice. Much of the humor of the film derives from something happening in such a way as to normally illicit a confused reaction, but instead causes those involved to react without interest, or otherwise in a way you would not expect them to.

A company run by a yogi able to telepathically communicate with animals (or not) kidnaps house pets, only to return them days later to encourage a greater bond between animal and owner. A man goes to work everyday even though he was fired months ago, simply pretending to work at a computer that's been turned off, and his co-workers react not with confusion, but mild annoyance. Palm trees turn to pine trees for no reason, nor is there any reason for why a man would have a palm tree in his backyard. A neighbor who inexplicably denies jogging daily moves away, only to ignore all roadsigns and end up in a desert like void that causes him to re-evaluate his life choices. A pet detective uses the memory of dog shit to turn it into a witness against its layers kidnapper. In every story beat and tangential bit of silliness, the film is defiant in pushing the audience into a head space where the nonsensical is the only thing that makes sense.

A lot of these insane little moments are very funny, most not being directly tied to a narrative that is itself incredibly slight and almost arbitrary, but by the end, I realize that behind the cleverness, they are all essentially the same joke being told over and over again in slightly different variations. Its a testament to the writing and the performances that it did not wear thin for me, but I highly suspect that some of those not immediately put off by the film's inherent inaccessibility might still find themselves frustrated by the repetitive structure. At many points I felt like I was watching a much better written Napoleon Dynamite taken to the Nth degree, where everything is as esoterically weird as everything else. For many, it might just be too much to take, but for my tastes, it never got to the point where I was questioning why I should keep watching, even as I was almost certain that none of it would resolve itself in any satisfying way.

It doesn't, and paradoxically I was completely satisfied, which I guess is sort of the point of the whole thing. Or maybe it isn't and I was just fooled by the constant misdirection into thinking there was some meta-conscious purpose to it. In any case, I enjoyed Wrong in all its attempts to be a movie I shouldn't have enjoyed, and if you're willing to suspend your bullshit detector for an hour or so and just let it all happen, I think you might be able to get something out of it as well.

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