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Quentin Dupieux Explains Why He Doesn’t Like Being Compared to David Lynch
Quentin Dupieux Explains Why He Doesn't Like Being Compared to David Lynch
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Since his unrepentantly weird “Rubber” in 2010, Quentin Dupieux has obsessively returned to the same themes and motifs in his films: the art and craft of filmmaking; voyeurism; artifice and manipulating viewers; and, most of all, dreams. The house musician and filmmaker makes films that perform self-vivisections, cutting themselves open and examining their own innards. His newest, “Reality,” depicts a filmmaker struggling with inspiration. It also has Jon Heder in a giant rat suit. Dupieux writes, edits, shoots, directs, and—until “Reality”—scores all of his films, making him a true auteur. Indiewire sat down with the French filmmaker to talk about movies, music and dreams.
You seem fascinated not only by film, but by the art and craft of filmmaking.
I think it’s because of the way I started. As a teenager I was watching movies and I was obsessed by the movies I was watching. It was something important for me. I’m from the VHS generation, and you know, I would watch the movie 10 times, 15 times, trying to enjoy the magic of it more. I’m always tempted to talk about movies and moviemaking in my movies, even if I know it’s not the best subject for a movie. But it’s just something I love. I love the process. I’m still excited, like I’m 15. It’s always the same feeling. I always feel the same, and I’m always trying to get that excitement. I’ve done five features so far and it’s always the same. I’m always like a kid trying to find that VHS excitement again.
Is that why you put a VHS literally inside of an animal in “Reality?”
Yes, but also because I know VHS is no longer something, but to me, a VHS contains more emotion than a DVD or a digital file. I grew up like this, and I was watching movies on VHS. I know people aren’t doing this, using VHS in 2015, but it’s also an homage to some movies I love. Especially “Videodrome,” by David Cronenberg.
I love “Videodrome.”
Me too! It was a shock. I used to love that movie so much. The scene where the guy puts the tape into his belly was really strong to me. In a way, [the VHS in “Reality”] is like a reference to that.
Which was your first love, music or movies?
Well, I did short films first. When I was like 15, I was playing around with a video camera, making movies, writing stories, trying to get some friends involved. I was always trying to make movies. At some point, when I did my first real film on 16mm, I needed some music on it. So I took some music from a record. And because a TV channel wanted to buy the short film, they asked me if the music was mine. If they played the film, they had to have the rights for the music, which I never knew about. So I had to redo the music for the short film to make it mine. So I bought a synthesizer and created some strange sounds. That’s how I started making music. Then two or three years later, I discovered the house music scene, and I started making music. From this point on, it was normal for me to make the music and the visuals.
So how did you decide on using Philip Glass for “Reality”?
Well, to be clear, it’s an old record, from 1971 [“Music With Moving Parts”]. Philip Glass didn’t write music for my movie. I know after doing “Wrong Cops” that, how can I say, my music was too limited for my movie. I knew I had reached the point where my music was… rough, just like, stupid electronic music. It’s not really helping to have that music in the movie. Some people just hate that music. So I decided for “Reality” I just didn’t want to do the music for it. Then, one day on the shoot, I knew I wanted only one piece of music. The movie is so repetitive, like a giant loop, I knew I wanted just one piece. Then a friend asked, “Why not Philip Glass?” So I’d been digging in his discography, and I found this piece that was perfect. It was, like most Philip Glass things, like a giant loop. Whatever Philip Glass thinks, the music is a giant loop. A lot of people tell me, “You could have done something similar,” but the idea was to use a piece of magic from somewhere else. To make the movie more open.
Reality draws heavily on dreams and the film is pervaded by dream logic. People love to call dreamy movies “Lynchian,” and your film has been deemed “Lynchian” by some critics. What do you think about being compared to other filmmakers like that?
It might be sort of helpful for people who don’t actually know my stuff, but I don’t really see my movies being connected to other movies, even if they’re thematically connected. I really respect David Lynch, I enjoy some of his work, but I don’t see myself as a baby David Lynch and actually I hate when we compare to him because it’s usually, I think, a bad way to present my work. David Lynch is David Lynch and he has his own stuff and his own way of filmmaking, and I think at the end, when you compare, there’s not really a connection. Of course I like to talk about dreams, but I don’t see a real connection. Actually, if we want to make a stronger connection with filmmakers, it would not be David Lynch. I’m more influenced by Blake Edwards, or maybe even the French movies of Luis Bunuel. I see more close relations with these. I have no choice. I make movies that are not, like, classic, so people need to make connections to understand and talk about it. I guess when someone mentions David Lynch, it’s a compliment, but to me, at the end of the day, I’m just trying to be kinda funny. I have no idea what David Lynch is trying to do. I don’t know what’s his goal, and I don’t really care. I just know that he’s making brilliant movies and that’s all I need to know. I’m pretty sure we don’t have the same goal at the end of the day.
So you draw inspiration from your dreams, I assume?
Oh of course, of course. I’m also doing the daydream thing. Like, when you’re half asleep or your brain is half off. For 15 or 20 minutes you just left your brain go, and that’s where I find my best ideas. Once in a while you dream about something incredible and you need to put it on paper, but I’m not trying to control my dreams. I try to let myself go during the day.
And you’re sober when you do these lucid dreams? Or do you ever experiment with mind-altering substances?
Well, maybe 20 years ago I tried making music while smoking weed and it was just a nightmare. You get really excited about one little detail, and you just play it for three hours, and the next day you realize it was nothing. And no, I’m not a drug guy. I’m not even a drinker. I don’t know if some people are actually able to do this, just take some pills and write a movie. I don’t think it’s really possible. When you take pills, your brain goes somewhere, and when you come back to life, you have to take more pills to connect again with what you did on pills. That’s how it was when I made music. I needed to smoke to connect with what I did when I was high, which is really a bad cycle. But I know also that it’s just my perception. Some people make great music while smoking. I know it, I know them.
How’d Jon Heder end up in Reality?
I love that guy. I offered the part to him. I’m a huge “Napoleon Dynamite” fan. It’s like a dream to have Jon Heder in my film. I was lucky that he enjoyed the script and was very excited. I’m lucky, but of course I guess the script was funny, he thought, so sometimes it’s just as easy as that. You offer them a script, and then it’s just a matter of negotiations, but that’s not my job. Producers do that. I’ve seen Napoleon Dynamite many times. I think it’s brilliant. The way he’s the character, the way it’s shot, the script, every character, it’s just perfect.