It’s an interesting thing to judge something about a film so early on, such as when a filmmaker’s new movie holds such a gigantically-ambitious sounding title that it in some ways suggests it to be a film of universally-commentating scope and total expanse, such as say, a title like Reality. Though in the case of writer/director Quentin Dupieux (who also did the cinematography, editing, and music, as usual), his audience should know that, no matter the title, they won’t be getting a life-defining opus–or even something of grand ambition in their full course helping of his off-brand cinema. Or for that matter, a movie made with any seriousness to it at all. Which is all for the very best. No, Reality (And in its native tongue, as the French-born, recent L.A. transplant filmmaker titled originally, Réalité) once again falls in line with Dupieux’s other reality-bending comic send-ups, which also makes for his most realized and best film yet.
With this third feature film, Dupieux (AKA electronic music heavyweight Mr. Oizo) has settled into a story that he finally seems ready to tell, even if he did conceive and start writing it before making his first film. Gone is his freshman debut with the easy-play killer car tire gag in Rubber, gone is the sophomoric clean-up hitting in the further midnight-movie shenanigans-laden Wrong Cops–here, is the piece-mealed story about a film director, who discovers that his alternate-reality self has already made the movie he intends to make, and…ya know–other things.
The movie opens in a wordless sequence where a back-woods rifleman sets in his sights, and takes down, a majestic deer, which is taken back home and gutted. Much to young Reality’s (Kyla Kenedy) amazement, the young girl sees a blue VHS tape fall out of the insides, but when she presses the issue, her father dismisses the notion that a tape could get into the belly of such a woods-creature- because that would be crazy. Meanwhile, the filmmaker/documentarian Zog (John Glover), wide-eyed, waiting, and hands folded in anticipation from a remote screening room, watches Reality’s real-life drama unfold in real-time, as she stares back into the camera, all the while his waiting for a climax of sorts to reveal itself.
Where Dupieux’s wheelhouse is in all-out absurdity, Reality finds itself operating on a much more operatically-meta stage, and somewhat more narrative-driven then previous works (somewhat).
Beyond following that rabbit-hole, the movie mainly centers around a public-access channel camera operator by day/budding filmmaker by later-that-day, Jason (Alain Chabat), whose meeting with the eccentrically-odd movie producer Bob (Jonathan Lambert) results in having his killer-microwave B-movie (a sly wink to a former Dupieux movie) greenlighted–on the caveat that he find the correct human shriek and death sound effect. With appearances by Reality’s cross-dressing principal Henri (Eric Warheim) and public-access show host in-an-itchy-rat-costume, Denis (Jon Heder) (it’s also obvious to see Dupieux aligning his comedy with the Adult Swim oddness of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! here), the film circles around to these seemingly non-connected stories, but finds a common (if long-shot) thread to pull the entire story together.
So, where does a film like this, one built on the honest intention of being purely meaningless and non-logical, stand with his other films, and movies moreover? Where Dupieux’s wheelhouse is in all-out absurdity, Reality finds itself operating in a much more operatically-meta stage, and somewhat more narrative-driven. Jason the director, trying to take his mind off of the stress of finding that perfect excruciating scream, goes to the movies- and sees his movie about a killer microwave playing, and, panicking, tries to block the projection and tell the audience that they aren’t supposed to be watching a movie that hasn’t come out yet.
No doubt, as much as Dupieux wishes to claim that he is all detached dead-pan shenanigans, he is at his best when he allows himself to dip his toes into the pool of substance, but only just-so. New audiences might find themselves unprepared for this off-beat brand of subversively alt-anarchic movie mayhem, but those with patience to try out a new midnight-movie with flair, and definitely for his fans already familiar with his devilish brand, should find themselves pleasantly entertained. Because, as he’s proven in his third time out, even when this director seems to be spinning his wheels, the wheel ends up finding the ability to growing telekinetic powers and kills an entire town, usually. Or something.