Reality Dir. Quentin Dupieux

[Realitism Fims; 2014]

Styles: drama, comedy
Others: Rubber, Adaptation, Mulholland Drive

Sun-bleached, Instagram-worthy hues fill the atmosphere of Quentin Dupieux’s latest film, Reality. Like thumbing the pages of a family photo album, it journeys leisurely through time and space, introducing us to a host of characters all tied together in an intricate web of stories and identities. We first meet a little girl named Reality played by Kyla Kennedy on a hunting day trip with her Brawny Man-esque father. Judging from the age of the 1970s-era truck, the dress, and the wood paneled walls of their home, it can be assumed that the film takes place a few decades before the present.

However, upon leaving the girl and her family, the film takes us to the set of a reality cooking show with a show host named Dennis distressingly dressed as a rat. Without the glasses and the nerd get-up it takes a few moments to recognize Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame, stimulating our sense of a nostalgic 80’s or early 90’s vibe. On the set of the reality show we also meet the cameraman, who’s main star of Reality, a silvery haired, soft-spoken Frenchman named Jason Tantra (Alain Chabat) who aspires towards Hollywood glory. As he drives off in his 1980s Celica in a parking lot full of generic recent models of cars, we realize that this a film set in the present filled with objects from the past.

When Tantra is offered a green light by a French producer for his pet project on the condition that he find the perfect scream, he leaps at the chance to prove himself and realize his dreams. As he sets out to do so, he finds himself in a nightmare that overlaps with the surrealistic worlds of others. Characters take on a new awareness of everything as situations and identities multiply, giving new meaning to the shot early on in which the little girl, Reality, gazes back at herself in the bathroom mirror as an infinite number of reflections surround her.

Those who enjoyed Quentin Dupieux’s film Rubber — a tale of a tire that falls in love with a woman — will relish this logic-bending experiment with narrative and perception. The meta-ness of this film places it in conversation with others, like Adaptation and The Holy Mountain, that play with the theme of subject-as-filmmaker and vice-versa. Like Adaptation, Reality’s setting in contemporary USA is familiar, but its willful confusion of past and present touch on our nostalgia for our collective past, the desire for a world that we may never have experienced. With scenes like the one in which Reality’s school superintendent (played by Eric Wareheim) drives through suburbs in a vintage military jeep in a 80s working woman’s suit, we catch bits and pieces of the past collaged into the present, all of which add up to an anti-conclusion that invites more questions and more viewings. The best way to experience Reality is to accept each moment for what it is, and to ask why without expecting real answers.

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