There’s nothing quite right about this hilariously delirious clip from Wrong, which hits theaters throughout the country this Friday and is already available on iTunes, featuring a suspicious gardner explaining the impossible overnight transformation of an everyday Californian palm tree to an evergreen. Its one of the many, many things wrong with Wrong from director Quentin Dupieux.
After directing just a mere handful of features, Dupieux (aka international electro-musician Mr. Oizo) has already established himself as one of the modern cinema’s foremost fearless surrealists who refuses to play by the rules. The Cannes Film Festival selected Rubber about a serial homicidal tire (yes, a car tire), the viral short and soon-to-be feature Wrong Cops starring Marilyn Manson and now his latest comedic brainbomb Wrong all seem to be constructs of the same wholly original and strange deadpan daymare. With a laser-sharp eye, a pranksterish wit and the airy rhythm of a ballet dancer, this filmmaker has zapped a fully-formed artistic vision into our collective space.
Wrong follows “Reno 911”’s Jack Plotnick after he loses his beloved dog and encounters a barrage of bizarro human roadblocks in his journey including a feces-hunting pet detective (Steve Little from "Eastbound And Down") and an ponytailed, face-scarred guru (a flat-out brilliant William Fichtner). This surreal comedy guides you through a fascinating and hallucinatory universe to which you’ll want to book repeat accommodations. In this interview, Dupieux chats about Wrong, his unique brand of nightmarish comedy, the construction an unconscious dimension and working with Plotnick.
Wrong is the story of a man who loses his dog: Paul. Is this an excuse for talking about something else?
QD: I love dogs and I am fascinated by the relationship between people and dogs. I get along with dogs better than I do with people! Wrong is an homage to this special love between people and dogs! The story about the character and his dog is the real subject of the film. In writing, you could think that it was some sort of pretext, but I soon realized that there was something poignant about the story of this guy Dolph who loses his dog. I talked about it with the lead actor, Jack Plotnick, and it didn’t take long for us to agree that it’s something you have to experience. The kind of telepathic exercises with his dog, the scenes where he cries in his car because his dog might be dead, all of that could have just been funny but I felt that the potential tragic side of those moments had to be fully explored. I had a very basic desire to see Dolph find his dog and to feel a sincere joy. At the same time, we had to avoid the slightly depressing aspect of a single man with his dog. That’s why he lives in a rather chic house: he has taste, there are lots of pictures on his mantle. You feel that he has a real life.
What was the idea that led you to start writing Wrong?
I wrote Wrong using the same method as I did for my other movies: in a rather random way. Once I have laid down all the random elements, I link them together to create an overall logic. I try not to have too much control. I reject steering the audience as part of the director’s role. On the contrary, I like the uncertainty that a film can generate. 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 a problem for each viewer, 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 create my own domain, which is to create the sense of unease.
The film is sometimes very nerve-wracking. As you’re watching, you say to yourself that it could veer off into a complete nightmare or pure comedy. You’re never sure what to expect.
The film is built on a bed of anxiety, through these scenes when characters don’t really understand each other. It’s the disappearance of the dog that guided my writing and I hope that plotline stays in people’s minds. I’m pleased to have forged an alliance between comedy and the anxiety linked to the missing dog. From the hero’s point of view, the situation is atrocious, especially when he picks up horrible snippets of information, like the burned-out van. The trap for a movie built on misunderstanding is that if everything is possible, nothing is important. The dog plotline anchors us to something tangible.
How do you achieve an overall coherence while preserving this unconscious dimension?
Once I have a certain number of ideas, I process them almost mathematically in order to find the overall logic. At the beginning, though, I love not understanding where an idea comes from. The process is the fruit of a lot of hard work. The short films I made when I was 18 were guided only by chance. They lack any logic. Reaching greater maturity, finding the cement that holds ideas together, took time. I sort through parameters; I check everything, like a pilot before take-off. The mere fact that I believe it gives the movie solidity. I’m my first audience.
You don’t want to make it your style?
No, 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. The filming of Rubber was very exciting because I was discovering my own method, finding my own grammar by inventing it.
Thanks also to Jack Plotnick, who seems inhabited by his character’s quest.
It was important not to play it cynically. In fact, it worked out quite the opposite. In some takes, Jack was crying too much because his character’s tragedy was so raw for him. Jack Plotnick is unforgettable in the role.
“Wrong” opens this week in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Ithaca, N.Y., Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Winchester, Va., Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio; and opens April 5 in Duluth, Minn., Portland, Ore., and Seattle, with more cities to follow. It’s also available on demand from cable, satellite and online providers. Watch the theatrical trailer here.