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 is one of the good surprises. The “film within a film” concept brings back memories of Purple Rose of Cairo and The Last Action Hero. Reality also pokes fun at Hollywood’s conceptualization of sci-fi and horror films as well as how some French producers come to Hollywood to be part of this action film industry, becoming more American than Americans themselves.
Reality takes place in Hollywood and surprisingly, it has a mix of French and American actors, the most famous being the very talented comedian, actor and director Alain Chabat. Here he makes his debut in an English speaking role and I can say he could be a great contender to play Inspector Clouseau, should someone revive The Pink Panther series following Steve Martin’s two tries.
The film opens on Reality, a young girl played by child actress Kyla Kenedy who witnesses her hunter father gut a hog. Among 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 crewmember of this show is cameraman 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. Bob thinks that this film can win the Oscar if Jason can just capture the correct groan. For the next 48 hours or more, Jason sits to his car trying to record the best groan ever filmed. A 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, whom we have seen in the beginning. The rest of the film mixes what real and what is fiction in an absurd yet creative way that is better seen than revealed.
Mr. Oizo is the musical stage name of French writer-director-editor- DP Quentin Dupieux who of course composes the music for his films, including Reality. Dupieux, who is now based in Los Angeles, enjoys presenting his comic vision of the city, mixing reality with dreams and imagination. In taking on real-life stereotypes like the Art House director who becomes a mainstream and the wealthy yet shallow producer, Quentin Dupieux has achieved, in Reality, his most funny yet complex film; a continuation of his past films Rubber and Wrong Cups. Near the end, Reality doesn’t supply viewers with complete answers and they must reflect upon what is really happening among as the stories interweave. If Dupieux, who seems to have digested a dose of David Cronenberg and David Lynch films, continues this way, I assume his films will attain cult status among his many international fans.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Sherif Awad is a film/video critic and curator. He is the film editor of Egypt Today Magazine (www.EgyptToday.com) and the Artistic Director for both the Alexandria film Festival , and the Arab Rotterdam Festival in The Netherlands. He also contributes to Variety, in the United States and is the Film Critic of Variety, Arabia (http://amalmasryalyoum.com/ennode189132 and The Westchester Guardian: www.WestchesterGuardian.com