Calm down: I don’t mean Quentin Tarantino’s heavily embargoed Hateful Eight, but rather Quentin Dupieux’s latest, Reality. Mr. Dupieux is not quite as well known as Mr. Tarantino — and it’s very unlikely he ever will be — but his vastly different oeuvre is singular and worthy of your time.
Dupieux got some attention back in 2011 with his second feature, Rubber — a heartwarming tale of a tire gone bad . . . a serial killer tire. He rolls around the High Desert, looking for victims. When he finds one, he starts vibrating in a sinister manner that has the power to blow up things and people. Meanwhile, several human observers, peering through binoculars, are watching the tire’s progress as a movie or performance piece, even when their reality interacts with the tire’s reality.
On one level, Reality is named after a preteen girl (Kyla Kenedy), who is sometimes presented as your basic sixth-grader and other times as an actress playing a sixth-grader. Every once in a while, our views of the sixth-grader are revealed as rushes from a movie directed by one Zog (John Glover), who shoots hours of footage of Reality (or the actress playing her) sleeping, waiting for . . . something.
Meanwhile, Bob (Jonathan Lambert, above right), the producer of Zog’s film, promises local TV cameraman Jason Tantra (Alain Chabat, above left) that he’ll back Jason’s dream project — about alien televisions causing humans’ heads to explode — only if Jason can record the greatest groan in cinema history. This distracts Jason from his day job on a cooking show that’s already falling behind schedule, because the host (Jon Heder) insists he is itching from horrible eczema rashes . . . which he doesn’t have.
Reality recovers a videocassette from the innards of a hog her father has killed and butchered, but none of the adults lets her watch it, because there can’t be a videocassette in a hog’s innards.
By the time Reality is over, the various worlds have intersected, time may or may not be occurring in a loop, Jason starts running into a doppelganger (and possibly a trippelganger), and scenes that we think are real are interrupted suddenly when their main character wakes up from what is now revealed as a nightmare.
If it’s not obvious, Reality is really goofy and almost always entertaining, particularly if (like me) you’re a metahead and can’t get enough of universes that are nestled like Russian dolls.
Rubber was simply like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Reality doesn’t top that, partly because it is like some things we’ve seen before — i.e., the later films of Luis Buñuel, movies like The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty. That’s not an easy comparison to live up to. While those Buñuel masterpieces are just as wacky, they feel very carefully constructed. Reality feels as though Dupieux shot whatever came into his head and then assembled the fragments after the fact.