by Sherif Awad
Some films can take the viewer by surprise. Sometimes it is a good surprise and sometimes it is bad.
Reality by French director and musician Quentin Dupieux belongs to the good surprises. It has the concept of a film within a film bringing back memories of Purple Rose of Cairo and The Last Action Hero. It also makes fun of how Hollywood conceptualize its sci-fi and horror films and how some French producers come to Hollywood to be part of this action film industry, becoming Americans more than Americans themselves.
Reality takes place in Hollywood and surprisingly it has a mix of French and American actors. The most famous one is Alain Chabat, a very talented comedian, actor and director. Her makes here his debut in an English speaking role. I can say he could be a great contender in playing Inspector Clouseau if someone thinks of reviving The Pink Panther series after Steve Martin had two tries.
The film opens on Reality who is a young girl played by child actress Kyla Kenedy who witnesses her hunter father gut a hog. From the animal’s innards, she spots a blue video cassette.
Cut to Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) who plays Denis, a television presenter who wears a big rat suit when hosting a cookery show. One of the crew of this show is camera-man Jason (Chabat), who wants to cast Denis in a movie he is planning to make. Jason gets an appointment with French producer Bob, now based in Hollywood. We understand they used to be friends before Bob made it to the top. Apparently, Jason goes to the meeting without a pitch or a treatment of his project. When asked by Bob about his film, Jason tells him it is called Waves, and it is something like Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks as the story centers on television sets that imitate waves killing people. Bob agrees to give Jason his breakthrough to make Waves but only if Jason can come up with the correct sound humans will make when they are being killed by their TV sets. Moreover, Bob thinks that this film can get the Oscar if Jason can catch the correct groan. For the next 48 hours or more, Jason sticks to his car trying to record the best groan ever filmed. Few days later, Jason give a call to Bob who happens to be in his screening room watching daily rushes of a troubled production. We discover that the film is nothing but the story of the young girl Reality that we have seen in the beginning. The rest of the film mixes what real and what is fiction in an absurd yet creative way which is best to be seen that revealed.
Mr. Oizo is the musical stage name of French writer-director-editor- DP Quentin Dupieux who of course compose the music for his films and for Reality. Dupieux, who is now based in Los Angeles, seems to present his comic vision of the city, a vision mixing reality with dreams and imagination. Taking on real-life stereotypes like the arthouse director who became mainstream and the wealthy yet shallow producer, Quentin Dupieux has achieved in reality his most funny yet complex film in a continuation to his past films Rubber and Wrong Cups. Near the end, Reality doesn’t give full answers to the viewers who must think a lot to reach their own logic of what’s happening in the interweaving stories. If Dupieux, who seems to have digested a dose of David Cronenberg and David Lynch films, continues this way, I assume it will get cult status among many international fans.