With total disregard for Hollywood convention, oddball writer-director-musician Quentin Dupieux last made a mark with his gonzo killer tire horror pic "Rubber." The Frenchman is now back with "Wrong," an even more eccentric vision about one man's journey to find his missing dog that takes so many detours it plays like several mind-bending shorts all strung together into one absurd whole. The film premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival where Indiewire' Eric Kohn called it "'Groundhog Day' remade by Luis Buñuel," and finally opens in select theaters today via Drafthouse Films (it's also currently available on VOD).
Indiewire called up Dupieux to discuss his latest absurdist foray, his love for Monty Python and his upcoming follow-up "Wrong Cops," which features many "Wrong"' cast members.
This might seem like a redundant question, but given the unpredictability of the story you tell in "Wrong," I want to know what inspired the film. Was it an image? Was it the story of this man losing his dog?
I think from what I remember during the process, the main thing was the little details -- these little trippy ideas create a new world. I was trying to get into a weird zone, a road where you get lost. And then of course I had to create the characters and this simple plot to make everything work together. But the main idea was I was trying to get lost in this kind of weird zone where a clock can switch to 7:60.
Is that a familiar process for you? Creating a world and then adding characters to flesh it out?
It’s always different. For "Rubber," I started with this visual idea which was the tire rolling slowly, trying to follow someone. That was the main thing I was obsessed with, like, oh this is great! So much tension. I was thinking a lot about just the tire rolling, following someone slowly. I get excited about small things like this. But it’s always different. I just finished my new one, "Wrong Cops," which was basically inspired by this cop character in "Wrong," I don’t know if you remember the guy. I loved this character and I loved the actor so that was the main inspiration right there. I wanted to create a new world around this guy because I loved him. It's always different.
The worlds that you create on film are notably absurd ones. Where does your passion for the absurdist genre stem from?
Yeah, I had my Monty Python obsession. I was obsessed with Monty Python. I also love old surrealists like Luis Bunel, Salvador Dali. But mainly I am inspired by life. I really think that life is absurd, you know? So nothing specific about my influences. I watched a lot of horror movies. I watch a lot of stupid comedies. I think everything in a way influences me.
Do you want your audiences to search for some kind of larger meaning in your work, or do you want them to just go along for the ride?
I really think that is exactly the point, you can watch this just for fun, this totally absurd thing without thinking about the meaning. But then, if you want to, yes, you can find meaning to things that are related to real life. And of course I love this, because when I’m writing I do think about all this stuff.
The most popular of absurdist playwrights shared the same view that human existence has no essential meaning. Do you share that view?
Going back to "Rubber," if you look at the monologue in the beginning of “Rubber," that’s in there, it means a lot to me. I do think we are surrounded by no reason stuff, you know? I think it’s a little stupid to try to have everything make sense because it’s a movie and it’s logic. I’m more into trying to find something that is more like real life. And basically in real life… I could have a cancer now. While I’m talking to you, I could have a cancer. We don't know. No reason.
You must feel so free when creating your art.
When you shoot the movie it's basically like shooting a movie so I’m not like this crazy director who’s changing the script. We have a script to follow, and rules. We’re not just shooting random. So yes, I feel lucky to be able to make movies like that because they’re not like commercial. Yes, I feel lucky and free. And I think that I am slowly finding my own voice. Though I would love the movies to be more exposed and more appreciated.
About the upcoming "Wrong Cops": What was your reason for shooting the feature in standalone chapters as it was being financed and screened (the first chapter screened at Cannes while three more recently played at Sundance). Is this a one-time experiment or is this the way you want to make your films going forward?
We were trying to find a new way because I’m impatient when I have an idea. I can't wait two years to do it, because then the idea dies and I have a lot of different ideas coming. I have trouble trying to follow myself sometimes. What we tried with "Wrong Cops" was, we can shoot the first 30 minutes, and then we'll see. And then we shot it and I edited it, and I would write the next chapters and we would find money at the same time. It was a good way to keep everything fresh. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was the same for "Wrong." I think I wrote it in three chapters, but then we shot it straight through. You don’t have time to question too much, you don’t have time to rewrite, you don’t have time to make it "better" because "better" is not necessary, you know, good. I would love to keep on doing this because it’s just something I love. It’s almost like making music. You have an idea and then boom, you do it and you have the result very fast and then you have the time to think about it. If you write and then have it sleep for like a year, it’s not good anymore. You have to rewrite it, you have to bring in new stuff or you lose the energy of it.
Has it been difficult to fund your films? I can imagine it's challenging to describe a film like “Wrong” or “Rubber” to a financier.
Yeah, it is pretty tough. Yes. But I've been pretty lucky. When we said to the TV channels we want to make a movie about a killer tire, everybody laughed, like "Are you kidding? No no, come on. We can’t do it, it’s too stupid." But then they read the script and they liked the script. It was short but it was well detailed. My scripts are super easy to read. They're almost like small books. I don't know, I’ve been lucky. But yes, it’s hard to pitch to tell the story of "Wrong" in front of the producer because it sounds like a bad movie. Like, oh yeah, this guy is looking for his dog. It sounds like a terrible movie. But then, when you give them the script and you read the dialogue and the absurdity of it, you get it. For now I’ve been lucky. Sometimes it's hard to explain what I’m going to do because I don't even know what I'm going to do. Usually the script speaks for itself.