In Rubber, a psychotic tire goes on a killing spree while a group of spectators watches from the sidelines…until they become characters in the film. In Reality, a young girl finds a videotape in the belly of a slaughtered pig. When she finally gets to watch the tape, she discovers she’s part of someone else’s universe. One of the smartest, funniest, and most imaginative filmmakers working today (and possibly ever), Quentin Dupieux has the rare ability to make us think and laugh at the same time. Click here to watch the trailer. A highlight of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. • Availability: May 1, exclusively at the IFC Center, New York City. Available on demand and via digital platforms. • Thanks to Sara Sampson, Sara Sampson PR, for arranging this interview .•Thanks to Ben Myers and Dennis Myers for suggesting questions.•
DT: Cinema is the perfect language for telling the stories you want to tell. Is that a happy accident, or did you fall in love with cinema the instant you saw it?
QD: Yes. When I was fifteen, I basically watched movies all the time, especially B movies. I was really excited by them. Then, when I started playing with video cameras, the feeling was always exciting, too. It has always been my element. I did tons of short films when I was young, so this has always been in my guts forever. I don’t know about the stories I’m telling; I just know that making movies and having ideas and filming and writing dialogue and editing—all of this is a huge part of my life.
DT: At the Q&A at Lincoln Center, Elodie Bouchez said that you made Rubber after having a bad experience with actors. Is that true, or was that a joke?
QD: It’s half true. Let’s just say the idea was to make a movie without counting on actors. The idea was to create a character using a stupid object, so yes. On my first movie, dealing with the actors’ egos and the actors’ feelings was boring to me. So that’s why I decided to do something like this. The funny thing is, when I did Rubber, I was interested in something else, but the actors on Rubber were so amazing that I instantly connected again with them. I did these Levi’s commercials at the end of the ’90s with a yellow puppet, and that was one of the highlights of my career, because a puppet has no feelings. You have an idea and the puppets do it. So I was trying to do this again with a tire, which worked perfectly, but at the same time I had a really good experience with all the actors. It was exciting, and they were all very connected to the movie. They were all involved, and suddenly I realized, The tire is boring and the actors are amazing. That’s what happened.
DT: Your movies are really fun, but in fact Reality changed the way I look at life. I recently dreamed that I was in someone else’s dream.
DT: It was really weird. How do you tread the thin line between comedy and philosophy?
QD: I think they’re exactly the same. I don’t think humor or fun or jokes are away from the brain. When you laugh, it’s a stupid reaction to something, but it’s also part of your mental situation. Sometimes you’re not able to laugh just because you’re not in the mood for it and it’s hard to explain why you’re not in the mood, and sometimes you just laugh at everything because you’re in the mood but it’s hard to describe why you’re in this mood today and not yesterday. So to me it’s the same, and that’s why I have a problem when a movie is just trying to make me laugh—when the premise is You’re going to laugh. It’s harder to laugh for me because they are trying to make me laugh.
It’s hard to explain, but I think it’s like that in real life. Everything is mixed up. You don’t decide, OK, today is only about the fun, and today I’m only going to laugh. You can’t do that. Everything is mixed up. You have your real life, you have your problems, bills to pay, you have to argue with someone, but at the same time you can laugh with someone else. Everything has to be happening at the same time, just like in real life. It may sound strange and even stupid, but that’s what I’m trying to do in my movies. Of course, I’m trying to make you laugh, but it has to be more complex. It has to contain some other elements. Otherwise it’s just a long joke. There aren’t many pure comedies that are really good. It’s very dangerous to go there. That’s why a lot of comedies end up with the characters getting sentimental at the end, because you can’t watch something that’s just supposed to be funny. You need something else, just because as human beings we are more complex than just one [type of] information.
We need more. As a writer, as a filmmaker, it’s the same. When I’m just filming funny stuff, it’s not satisfying. I know something’s missing, so that’s how I usually build my stories and my scenes. I always need to find something else. Not just one element. It was the same for Rubber. A lot of people told me, It would have been better if it was just a horror movie with a tire killing people—forget about the spectator scenes. And I said, That’s not interesting. Just one idea—that’s not enough.
DT: What do you like about B movies?
QD: You feel closer to B movies in a way because they’re more human. They’re charming, because you see the intentions and the filmmaker trying to create effects. You can feel it. The reverse is Spider-Man. It’s perfectly done, and everything is so finished, so sharp, that you don’t feel the filmmaker. Of course I know it’s a different kind of entertainment. You’re not supposed to feel the filmmaker when you watch Spider-Man, but that’s why I’ve always been more attached to B movies—and when I say B movies, I’m also talking about John Carpenter, for example. I’m also talking about the good B movies, not just the bad ones.
In B movies you feel the human beings behind the movies, whereas Spider-Man is more like a movie made by a computer. There’s no accidents, no surprises. If you compare the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the recent remake, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. The first one was really charming and more scary just because it seems to be happening in real life. It’s more disturbing. The remake looks like a generic movie, and even the actors are like computer-generated characters.
DT: I know exactly what you mean. What does the violence in Rubber and Reality accomplish?
QD: I honestly don’t see violence in my movies, because the violence I’m shooting, like these stupid head explosions or rabbit explosions in Rubber, I don’t see as a violent scene. I see it more as a guilty pleasure. I’ve seen kids watching Rubber, and they’re not scared of the rabbit explosion. They think it’s funny because they know it’s fake and they know it’s impossible, and the way it’s filmed, there’s nothing shocking about it. I’m not a violent guy, so the violence you see in my movies is just for the fun. I would not be able to do a real horror movie, because when you do a real horror movie, you have to dive into the horrible stuff, and I’m not attracted to horrible stuff. To me, Rubber is like a cartoon.
DT: The second time I saw Reality, I tried marking where the music came in to see if it signaled a shift in reality. As you’re both a filmmaker and a musician, can you talk about the role of music in Reality and film in general for you?
QD: It’s always different. In Reality, I decided to use only piece of music. It’s always the same piece. The idea was to create an hypnotic feeling. Basically I used the music every time the movie was slowing down. There’s always new information in the movie, but at the same time it’s a giant loop. You see some things twice, sometimes three times, so the music was there to help everyone be focused. It was there to keep you excited and interested, because if you remove the music, the movie is going to be superflat and almost the same. Nothing tells you to enjoy. The editing was to help this process of the giant loop and help people understand the mass of my movie, because this movie is really logical, in a way. If you watch it ten times, you’ll see that everything is right on time. There’s no random stuff. These days I think there’s too much music in movies in general. Back in the ’70s or ’80s, music was a character in the movie. Music was really important. I’m not a huge fan of Tarantino’s, but the way he uses music is incredible, the way he strikes with old pieces of music. It’s hard to explain my process, because of course I make music, too. I would love to stop using my music in my movies only because I think I’m doing too much. I’m writing, I’m shooting, I’m also editing. I think at the end of the day it might be annoying for other people. They’ll say, Oh, this guy is doing everything. It’s a little boring, I think.
DT: What do you like most about making movies?
QD: Honestly, it’s to stay close to my childhood. I don’t want to be a professional, because suddenly it’s not about the fun anymore. It’s about being smart. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing; I just want to stay close to my childhood, when I was trying to make short films with a bad video camera. I want to keep on feeling this. That’s what I’m looking for when I’m writing, that’s what I’m looking for when I’m shooting. I always make sure what we shoot is exciting. It needs to be exciting every time. Even the stupidest shots …everything has to be exciting. Like I said, just like a kid playing with Legos. That’s what I’m doing.
DT: When is Rubber 2 coming out?
QD: [laughs] We don’t know…maybe I’ll do it one day.
Copyright © Director Talk 2015