Drafthouse Films // 2012 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // July 2nd, 2013
"An entrancing and wholly original hallucinatory universe all its own."
If we're entirely honest with ourselves, most of the movies we watch are pretty much interchangeable. Of course this occurs on the level of narrative -- most stories boil down to "someone wants something, someone else wants it too: conflict!" -- but also visually. We see the same shots over and over again, from the comfortable shot/reverse-shot for dialogue to the same tilted-angle moments of famous buildings being demolished by disasters. Sometimes, we're confronted with someone doing something new: a story gets told we haven't really heard before, or someone shoots a film using new techniques we've never seen. Rarely, however, do these two things happen simultaneously. They did with Quentin Dupieux's English-language debut Rubber. Not only was the story an out-there mix of metanarrative and horror-film tropes, the film's focus on an anthropomorphic tire kept the visual novelty flowing as well. It was a very open question how the electronic-musician-turned-director would follow up on such a strange (and generally well-received) film. With Wrong we have the answer, and it's as strange as fans could hope for.
Nothing is going right for Dolph (Jack Plotnick, Rubber); he's been fired from his job (though he still shows up there), and the cubicle farm he shares has sprinklers constantly going off that no one remarks on. The palm tree in his backyard has suddenly become a pine tree. Worst of all, though, his dog is missing. This finally catalyzes Dolph from his stupor, and he goes in search of his canine companion as a way of fixing everything that's Wrong in his life. Along the way he'll meet a host of strange characters.
The closest analogue we have to Dupieux working in the semi-mainstream is Michel Gondry. Both auteurs create worlds that are remarkably like our own, but slightly askew. They both tell stories that are magical in some way, like certain rules don't apply. In the case of Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we have the machine that erases memories. In Wrong we have an office floor where sprinklers constantly flow without anyone appearing to notice.
What separates Dupieux from Gondry (and from most writer/directors) is that Dupieux is firmly, 100% committed to the worlds he creates. Whereas Gondry basically uses his ability to create alternate dimensions in the service of fairly traditional stories (both Eternal Sunshine and The Science of Sleep are basically romance-dramas), Dupieux abandons standard narratives pretty easily. Sure, Wrong is a kind of quest story, one of the oldest stories in the book, but Dupieux goes old school with it, using the quest form as an excuse to present us with his off-kilter world. Basically, the lost dog is an excuse to show us just how weird Dupieux can make things.
That will be the sticking point for most viewers, but also the reason that many will love the film. It's the proverbial double-edged sword. Dupieux is to be admired for creating a world entirely his own, but not everyone is going to want to visit. As a lover of cinema, and someone who wants to see new things sometimes, I tend to enjoy Dupieux's movies (both Rubber and Wrong). I wouldn't want every movie to look and feel like Wrong, but as an example of what the medium can do and what stories it is possible to sell, I'm glad it's out there -- even if I won't put it on every time I want to watch a movie. On the other hand, I'm totally sympathetic to viewers who are going to say "I don't need to see Dupieux's films -- they're too weird for me." There's nothing wrong with wanting comfort from cinema, and the kinds of comforts that Wrong provides will not be familiar to most viewers.
Love the film or hate it, Wrong (Blu-ray) is stellar. Dupieux is nothing if not attentive to the visuals of his films, and the 1.85:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is nigh-perfect. Detail is stunning throughout, with fine object detail fully resolved and color saturation and variation equally impressive. Black isn't a predominant color for the film (as it wasn't in Rubber), but black levels here are deep and consistent when they do appear. No digital artefacts or compression problems crop up either. Unsurprisingly, given Dupieux's musical roots, the DTS-HD 5.1 track included here is excellent. It's mostly about the film's dialogue, which comes through front and center with impressive clarity. However, the musical score (co-created to Dupieux and Tahiti Boy) sounds rich and detailed as well. The track isn't used to create a detailed soundfield so much as to balance dialogue and music, so no real directionality is present in the track.
Extras start with a 13-minute making of that features interviews with the cast and crew, largely talking about the environment during production. Another featurette includes excerpts from the script being read by the actors on the set, and these interviews have been edited together to create an kind of shortened version of the film (or perhaps an extended trailer?). Another short featurette includes a video recreation of an important moment between a detective and our hero. There's also a suite of trailers for other Drafthouse Films releases. A digital copy of the film is also included, and the code is on an insert with a logo for "Jesus Organic Pizza." There's a booklet as well, presented as "My Life, My Dog, My Strength: Volume II" by Master Chang. In reality it includes an introduction to the film, an interview with Dupieux, and some illustrations that tie into the film. Overall it feels very much like a Wes Anderson special edition, where the world of the film is drawn out into the home video packaging to give further insight into the mind of the creator.
Wrong will likely be enjoyed by fans of Rubber and those who are looking for a cinematic experience well outside the norm. Though it's not a film for everyone, Wrong (Blu-ray) is strong enough to recommend for rental to the curious and for purchase to fans of Dupieux's work.
Wrong, yes, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Drafthouse Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated