Wrong (US - BD RA)
If Quentin Dupieux's latest film is Wrong, Gabe doesn't want to be Right...
Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) awakens one morning to find he has lost the sole love of his life - his dog, Paul. Desperate to reunite with his best friend and set things right, Dolph embarks on a journey which spirals into the realm of the absurd. On his quest, he drastically alters the lives of several severely bizarro characters, including a promiscuous pizza delivery girl (Alexis Dziena), a mentally unstable, jogging-addicted neighbor, an opportunistic French-Mexican gardener, an eccentric pet detective (Steve Little) and most mysterious of all, an enigmatic pony-tailed guru, Master Chang (William Fichtner) who imparts his teachings to Dolph on how to metaphysically reconnect with his pet. (From Drafthouse Films’ official synopsis)
Some motion pictures are just so conceptually weird that I can’t help but find myself compelled to watch them. Sometimes, a good title, especially a very literal-sounding one, is all you need to pique my interest. How can anyone resist something like The Amazing Mr. No Legs, the sordid tale of a legless mafia hitman armed with a motorized armoury of a wheelchair? Or Death Spa, which concerns a heath club that is haunted by the wife of the owner, who uses the workout devices to kill clients (its alternate title is Witch Bitch)? Surely no one can ignore the urge to watch The Doberman Gang about a team of circus Dobermans (as in dogs) trained to rob banks that eventually turn on their masters. It has two sequels, for Christ’s sake! Then there’s something like Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich – a conceptually weird movie that acknowledges its weirdness and explores it meta-textually. Jonze, his Being John Malkovich writer (turned-director) Charlie Kaufman ( Synecdoche, New York), and his Director’s Label production-mate Michel Gondry ( Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep), have continued to explore similar themes throughout their very self-aware work, though they’ve managed to remain anchored in a relatively traditional, usually romantic, dramatic sense. Few recent films have mixed the silliness of exploitation with a meta-satire stance. Tarantino often hovers between these concepts, but is also constantly true to the stringent process of storytelling.
Enter Quentin Dupieux, a French musician-turned-filmmaker, whose third film, Rubber, is at once a surrealist manifesto and a fourth-wall-breaking, slasher film spoof. Rubber is conceptually about as weird as they come – an abandoned tire is suddenly, for absolutely no reason, turned sentient and given psychokinetic powers, which it uses to go on a killing spree somewhere in the California desert. Meanwhile, a group of people gathers in the distance to watch ‘Rubber’s’ antics with binoculars, eventually becoming part of the action. The whole film is an exercise in absurdity for the sake of absurdity. There’s no greater meaning behind the events. Dupieux isn’t aping the social satire of Luis Buñuel or Alejandro Jordorowsky – he’s just doing his thing. He’s also a quintuple-threat filmmaker – he writes, directs, edits, co-composes music, and sometimes acts as his own cinematographer – marking him as a special class of auteur. Whatever your opinion of his films, Dupieux is clearly the one to blame.
Wrong is obviously made by the same guy that made Rubber, but is built around something resembling a plot (it is, at least, very linear) and hinges on the experience of a single character that the audience is expected to identify with on some level. Dolph is a character within this twisted universe, so he doesn’t necessarily know how bizarre his life is, but he is written as aware enough to be frustrated with the even stranger behavior of the people around him. Wrong remains a relatively innocuous film, going out of its way to avoid major confrontation, but it does remind me a little of movies like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, where the protagonist is the only character that seems to understand how frustrating the movie’s world is. However, unlike Brazil’s Sam Lowry, Dolph suffers some particularly strange personality afflictions himself, such as going to work everyday despite having been fired months before the events of the film.
Dupieux’s dialogue is similarly deadpan here, but, like the storyline, it serves a slightly more focused purpose than that of Rubber. The director’s fanbase need not worry that his characters are suddenly less random than they were previously, but viewers that found Rubber’s arbitrary interactions alienating might be happy to know that there is at least an acknowledgement of design this time around. For example, towards the beginning of the film, Dolph calls a pizza delivery company and has a long discussion concerning the company’s logo with the young lady that answers. The conversation itself is arbitrary, but it contains minor character insight (Dolph admits he’s distraught and just wants to talk to someone) and connects the two recurring characters. The interactions remind me a lot of similar asides and non-sequiturs of Wes Anderson’s films and Steven Soderberg’s Schizopolis. They’re also delightful in their brutal honesty (‘…the others will just reject me if I keep being your friend).
Wrong is constantly flecked with surrealist touches that serve zero purpose beyond absurdity. The film opens with a firefighter squatting to take a dump in the middle of a sidewalk while a van burns in the background. Later, Dolph arrives at his workplace, where the sprinkler system is causing a torrential downpour of water that everyone ignores. Meanwhile, Victor finds a polite man who has ‘taken it upon himself’ to paint his red truck blue. Victor assures that man that it isn’t necessary, because he likes it red, but doesn’t complain about the half of his truck that has already been painted blue. These brief sequences aren’t particularly intrusive, either ( Wrong isn’t an episodic series of skits), which adds just the right amount of oddball texture to the proceedings without being Dadaist or mean-spirited. Like other surrealists, Dupieux eye for imagery might be enough to shuttle even the most impatient viewer past his weirdness. I also think it’s very hard to argue that he’s a pretentious arthouse filmmaker. To the contrary, I found Wrong to be a particularly inviting, knowingly silly film with little discernable social context or subtext. It’s not traditionally entertaining, I suppose, but the right audience should appreciate its eccentricities.
According to imdb.com specs, Dupieux shot Wrong using something called an ‘HD-Koi’ camera system with a note that it is a ‘prototype.’ I can’t find any specific specs on this camera, but the ‘experts’ on various camera forums seem to agree that it is a smaller version of a KineRAW-S35 – a cheaper, Chinese-made version of a RED ONE. Or, at least, the closest a cheaper, Chinese-made camera can be compared to a RED ONE. When compressed to 1080p for Blu-ray (theoretically from 8K, I suppose?), there’s not a lot of obvious difference between this camera and similar cameras. Assuming this 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is accurate, the cheaper cameras aren’t as good at capturing images in low light. Nighttime images tend to pulsate a bit and generate more overall noise than brighter sequences and higher contrast, dark interiors (when the frame isn’t too dark, the contrasting black levels are plenty pure and sharp). Overall details are slightly smudged in the widest shots, but Dupieux’s constant use of shallow focus and blown-out white levels ensures that this isn’t really much of an issue. Textures are also reasonably sharp, despite the focal practices. The film’s palette is usually washed out by those blooming, throbbing (but usually clean) whites. Flesh tones and natural greens remain pretty accurate, while clothing, prop, and set decorations are softer and more pastel. Nothing really ‘pops,’ but the hues are consistent. One issue that I’m attributing to the transfer (rather than the format) is the presence of edge haloes, because these also appear along the opening titles. This isn’t a particularly aggressive problem, but a consistent one. There are also a few images that flutter a bit during camera movement, as if a few frames are missing. I’m not sure if this is a camera or transfer effect, though.
Like Rubber, Wrong is a pretty underwhelming film from an audio design standpoint. This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is, for most intents and purposes, a 1.0 dialogue & effects track mixed with a surround-enhanced musical track. This is a reasonably quiet film from an effects standpoint, as well. When layered ambience does become a factor, such as the drenching sprinkler system of Dolph’s workplace, the sound is still usually maintained, more or less, in the center channel (I did notice a few vehicles moving towards the stereo channels as they leave the frame). I also expect that this track has been compressed, despite the apparently lossy DTS-HD MA codec, simply because the volume levels are so low. I had to turn up the receiver pretty high to discern any of William Fichtner’s dialogue. The film’s music, which is composed by Tahiti Boy (seemingly of the band Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family) and Dupieux himself, is also pretty quiet, seemingly on purpose. The music does give the stereo and LFE channels more to do without any major directional enhancement to speak of.
The extras begin with Phase 7: The Making of a Nonfilm (12:20, HD), and interviews with Dupieux, producer Gregory Bernard, and actors Jack Plotnick, Alexis Dziena, Mark Burnham, Arden Myrin, William Fichtner, and Steve Little. The discussion covers the process of making such an odd motion picture, from conceptualization, to screenwriting, casting, and creating details without meaning. Up next is a behind-the-scenes featurette (18:00, SD) that is made in the absurdist spirit of the film. It is made up entirely of members of the cast reading from the script and shot using a very low-resolution camera (they run through almost the entire film). The extras are wrapped up with Memories of a Dog Turd (3:40, SD), colonoscopy footage seen in parts during the movie, and trailers.
I’m guessing that the people that enjoyed Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber already had Wrong on their radar and already know pretty well what to expect. The rest of you will probably be divided into two groups – those that enjoy Dupieux’s brand of surrealism and those that find it incomprehensibly obnoxious. I hope Wrong is close enough to accessibility to change a couple of minds, but it’s enough like Rubber that it mostly applies to the same audience. Drafthouse Films’ Blu-ray release has some minor video issues (that may be related to Dupieux’s use of ‘budget’ digital HD cameras), understated DTS-HD MA sound, and an all too small collection of extras – though I suppose we wouldn’t want the director to spend too much time explaining such an odd movie.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 18th June 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Phase 7: The Making of a Nonfilm, The Wrong Behind the Scenes, Memories of a Dog Turd, Trailers, Digital Copy, Booklet
Easter Egg: No
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Jack Plotnick, Éric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner, Regan Burns
Length: 94 minutes