Absurdist Filmmaker Quentin Dupieux Likes Doing Things the Wrong Way
Jack Plotnick in Quentin Dupieux's Wrong
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
On its surface, Quentin Dupieux's new film Wrong seems to be about a man who's looking for his lost dog. In fact, it's actually about ... well, we don't quite know what it's actually about, and that's just the way Dupieux likes it. "I'm not interested in steering people's minds," Dupieux tells us, his French accent giving his words a slightly off-beat (to our ears) cadence. "A lot of directors do this very well. You just have to sit there and the director makes you feel stuff and you don't have to use your brain. I'm more into you make the movie. When you watch it, you decide how you feel, not me.
"I used to say during Q&As, 'If you don't like it, it's your fault.' I know that sounds like a joke, but I really think that's the truth. You decide if it's good or not, you decide if you like it or not. Yes, this is a movie about a guy who loses his dog but I don't even want to tell you what else I think it's about or what it means to me, because it doesn't matter. That's what I like about it. Anyone can see something different."
Dupieux wrote the lead part of Dolph Springer for actor Jack Plotnick, who had a small role in Dupieux's previous film Rubber. (On the surface, that film was a thriller about a killer tire with psychokinetic abilities.) "I think [Jack's] a genius, I enjoyed so much working with him when we did Rubber. I had a strong feeling about this guy but I was frustrated in that shooting because he had a small part and we only got to shoot for a short while so I wrote the part of Dolph for him."
Dolph has a series of strange encounters throughout Wrong, including exchanges with his French-Mexican gardener, a promiscuous pizza delivery girl, a pet detective and the mysterious Master Chang (William Fichtner), an inscrutable pony-tailed guru who tries to help Dolph metaphysically reconnect with his lost dog.
"The typical everyday-life guy in lots of mainstream movies, is a little bit too boring. I was trying to get away from this. In this movie, [Dolph's] like the normal guy, but he's the normal guy in this not-normal world. He's more complex than just the guy next door. If you watch closely, you see that he is a little weird in many ways. Even though the world around him is weirder, he's kind of strange, too."
The physical elements in Dupieux's Wrong world are also incongruous. A palm tree mysteriously turns into a Christmas tree overnight, it's always raining inside Dolph's office (he was fired weeks before, but keeps going in to work as usual). Dupieux wholeheartedly embraces the outlandish absurdity of it all but says absurdity is not his goal.
"I'm not trying to be absurd, but I'm mostly inspired by life and life is absurd all the time. Yes, some things in my film are not explained but it's the same in real life. We're always trying to see some meaning in some random stuff but I think in life we can't always figure out what something means. Every day I see stuff that I don't understand. If you watch the news or watch the people in the street, talk to some random people on the street ... it's all a big mess. And it's not like everything in [Wrong] is happening for real. To me, this story maybe happens in his mind."
Dupieux fans know that's a big, fat maybe.
While Dupieux admits that as a viewer, he enjoys what he calls "robot movies" (where the director spoonfeeds the audience), as a filmmaker, he's dedicated to making movies that are just the opposite. "When I'm watching a movie, sometimes I like [that I] don't have to think. You know just by listening to the music what's going to happen. You know, 'Oh, this is a funny moment. I can laugh. Oh, this is tension. What's going to happen?' I like that when I'm watching a movie, but I don't like that when I'm making a movie.
"I'm not trying to make you feel anything in particular. I like to leave it open so you can experience it however you feel. The movie is, I don't know quite how to say this ... the movie is flowing. You're watching and you catch some stuff but you don't catch some other stuff. There's a lot of free spaces. Everything is not explained. It's a different way to watch a movie and for some people, it's too strange, and I understand. But for some people it works.
"I like the idea of breaking the regular format of a movie. I think it's interesting to break the rules. We are so used to the same structure. You can take two different movies, one about a guy killing people and one a love story, and they have the same exact structure. The music tells us how to feel. When the ending arrives, you can see it coming. All these things that we are used to, I really love not to care about this."
Wrong opens on March 29 at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, 114 Vintage Park. For information, visit the theater's website or call 713-715-470. $9.50.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events