LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - A director buys a ticket to a horror movie he hasn't made yet and asks the projectionist to stop the screening so he can improve the sound mix. A little girl watches her dad gut a wild boar in the kitchen and swears she sees a bright blue VHS cassette among the entrails. Wearing a giant rat costume, the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite can't stop itching while hosting a cooking show. Most people don't laugh in their dreams, and they won't here, either.
Weird is easy, and in Dupieux's case, it's what this cult helmer's supporters have come to expect from his small but nonconformist oeuvre, accepting even lazy eccentricity as a welcome break from cookie-cutter cinema. "Reality" was backed by the same producer who enabled "Wrong" and its even-less-right spinoff, "Wrong Cops," and though it's less outwardly gonzo, this bizarrely bilingual (but mostly English-language) follow-up has pretty much the same feel: unremarkable, over-saturated hi-def lensing that makes Los Angeles look as if someone put it through the washer too many times.
Maybe someone has. In the year 2014, it's hard to find much that hasn't been said before in other, better showbiz satires (though "Birdman," which also bowed in Venice, proves it's possible), so Dupieux distracts himself with the idea of blurring the acts of dreaming and directing. It's hard to be sure, but "Reality" may even be some sort of personal statement, centering on a French camera operator (Alain Chabat) with a really terrible idea for a movie. He pitches it to an ADD producer (Jonathan Lambert), who greenlights the project on the condition that the helmer find the perfect groan.
That would actually be a pretty good starting place for a movie, but the character is a total hack, and instead of working with a sound designer or doing some sort of sadistic Method research (whereby he inflicts pain on strangers to hear how they groan), he just sits in his car with a tape recorder, trying to come up with the right noise. Could this half-assery be a metaphor for Dupieux's screenwriting process? In addition to writing and directing, Dupieux acts as his own d.p. and editor, meaning there's no one to filter out the bad ideas -- or to make the decent ones better.