TADFF 2012: ‘Wrong’ an experiment in Kafkaesque storytelling

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Written and directed by Quentin Dupieux

USA, 2012

An aptronym, or charactonym, is when a person’s profession or career is aptly expressed by their strangely befitting name. For example, if your name is Anita Baker and you become bread-monger, or if your name is Dan Druff and you become a barber, then this constitutes an aptronym. So parents, if you want your baby boy to grow up and make audience dividing, debate inducing, genre defying, convention ignoring, style important, cult becoming movies, then, by all means, name him Quentin; French provocateur Quentin Dupieux was, and his films, including his latest, Wrong, are.

In Wrong, Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) wakes up at 7:60 am to find that his dog, Paul (Kuma), is missing. After a short debate with his neighbour Mike (Regan Burns) about jogging and morning fashion, a quick call to a newly opened pizza joint to discuss their rabbit-on-a-motorcycle logo with the phone operator Emma (Alexis Dziena), and a tree themed conversation with his French accented gardener Victor (Eric Judor), Dolph heads off to work in an office job that he was fired from three months earlier, wherein a torrential downpour is happening indoors. He soon gets in touch with the mysterious Master Chang (William Fichtner), who helps Dolph to find Paul.

Basically, Wrong is an experiment in Kafkaesque storytelling; which is to say, it tells the story of a universal and identifiable problem (which, in the context of Wrong, is the aphorisms ‘be grateful for what you have while you it’ and ‘you don’t know what you have until you lose it’) while wrapping and warping it in a series of self-conscious, often befuddling, and senselessly surreal non-sequiturs. In fact, Wrong is what Cosmopolis would be like if it was played as a comedy. There are random encounters, bombastic and mostly meaningless conversations, hampered narrative flow, and thinly plotted character motivations; although, admittedly, looking for your missing dog is a far more noble goal than getting a haircut.

Wrong may be too gauche for some, as Mr. Dupieux tends to wallow quite a bit in the cognitive extreme (see: dog turd cam), but the film is able to create a strangely hypnotizing and poetic rhythm with its stilted delivery and deadpan tone. It’s like a Stewart Francis or Demetri Martin routine; one filled with incessant punch lines, occasional leitmotifs, and never-ending oddity. It’s never truly engaging, absorbing, or altogether necessary, but, thanks to a softly pulsating score, off-kilter acting, and its unshakeable cheek, Wrong does put you in a weird sort of place that exists only in the deep recesses of Mr. Dupieux’s mind.

– Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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