Every once in a while, surrealism seems to make a comeback. From David Lynch's bizarre narratives and dream logic to Charlie Kaufman's postmodern stories to brief flirtations with the mainstream like "Groundhog Day," one of the most interesting things about surrealism has been the shifting use (and relative misuse) of the term since the end of the movement. The latest director to attract the label is Quentin Dupieux ("Rubber").
But definitions aside, those labels are
the only things that critics can agree on about Dupieux's latest
film, "Wrong," which is attracting
a wide range of reactions -- from Jake Cole calling Dupieux a "glorified YouTube user" in his Movie Mezzanine review
to Andrew O'Hehir calling the film a "near-masterpiece" for
But let's see if we can pinpoint where these impassioned reactions are coming from. It's sitting comfortably at a "B" average on our Criticwire Network, but this is an impassioned "B" if there ever was one.
PRO: This is a genuinely, traditionally "surrealist" film.
"What distinguishes Quentin Dupieux's profoundly strange movie 'Wrong' is that it's surrealist in the old-fashioned sense, the sense employed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali." -- Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
CON: ...but in a far less intelligent way.
"To even call what Dupieux does surrealism is to insult that artform's inherent sense of defiance, its rejection of boundaries of artistic and social taste in expression radical thought." -- Jake Cole, Movie Mezzanine
PRO: It's marked by a bold, directorial voice.
"Part of what makes 'Wrong' so invigorating is that it convinced me that Quentin Dupieux is a modern day auteur. There's just something about it that screams Quentin Dupieux. Even if I hadn't know that the man behind 'Rubber' had directed, written, shot, and edited 'Wrong,' I would have realized it immediately." -- Alec Kubas-Meyer, Flixist
CON: ...but it doesn't show anything new or versatile.
"I'm a sucker for humor of the weird and it hit me just right -- but it also feels like Dupieux may be painting himself into a corner if he doesn't try something drastically different next time." -- Luke Y. Thompson, Nerdist
PRO: In all likelihood, there is a good deal to take away from "Wrong."
CON: ...or maybe there isn't.
PRO: The acting.
"One thing is for sure, William Fichtner has never been better. His performance, all too brief sadly, as Master Chang is so odd and amazing you just can't take your eyes off him. Fichtner kills the role of the reserved Master Chang and steals every scene." -- Marc Ciafardini, Go See Talk
CON: The characters.
"'Wrong' is perilously close to being a parody of an experimental, faux-Lynchian arthouse film, full of elliptical, meaningless character motivations and dialogue, amounting to nothing." -- Josh Spiegel, Sound On Sight
PRO: Despite its initial appearance, it's undeniably original.
CON: ...but that originality only illuminates artistic limitations.
"Dupieux's inventiveness is undeniable. But I finished the movie with a new quiver of doubts about the possibilities of Surrealism, and renewed conviction that its limits are what caused it to pass out of fashion." -- Matt Brennan, Thompson On Hollywood
So yes, this work is, by almost all accounts, surreal. But does it use the aesthetic in a new, powerful way, or is it just a rehash? It's up to you to decide if it works, in both concept and execution.