Two Wrongs Make a Right
Quentin Dupieux is back with 'Wrong Cops'
If you're thinking Wrong Cops is a straight-ahead sequel to Quentin Dupieux's 2012 surreal comedy Wrong, you're, well, wrong. While he called the first film "quite precious and sweet," for his follow-up, he said, "I really needed to do something stupid and dirty."
On the surface, Wrong Cops is about a bunch of shiftless, bored police officers in the fictional L.A. of Dupieux's wrong-o-verse. But then, that's like saying that Wrong was about a guy looking for his lost dog. While the first movie was a bizarre but touching meditation on love and loss, this time Dupieux's creations are venal, obsessed with weed, dance music, nose jobs, and sexual harassment. However, the two are linked through the returning character of Officer Duke, played by Mark Burnham, who needlessly bullied the first film's nebbish hero. Dupieux said, "When I was shooting Wrong, I was super-happy with the mood, I was super-happy with the tone" but he wanted to move onto "something more simple, something less dreamy and less conceptual." When he saw Burnham's performance, he had the core of his next film. "I loved shooting this scene of someone being mean for no reason, and I wanted to do 85 minutes of this. Just mean people with no emotions. They're all terrible."
His second inspiration was also one of his first cast members: Marilyn Manson. Looking like Nick Swardson's disaffected brother, the industrial-goth rocker plays a dance-music-loving teen who gets on Duke's bad side. "We met online," explained Dupieux. Turns out that Manson was a huge fan of his first film, serial-killer tire movie Rubber. Dupieux said, "He got in contact with me just to say: 'Rubber is my favorite movie of the year. I watched it 15 times. If you want to do something with me, any time.'"
Their collaboration has all the hallmarks of a noir – porn, blackmail, buried cash – but viewed through a surrealist lens. Inevitably, there are comparisons to that modern touchstone of twisted narratives, David Lynch's Twin Peaks. It even seems like Dupieux made a deliberate nod with the casting of Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie – known to the show's fans as the parents of the ill-fated Laura Palmer. According to Dupieux, it was actually a complete accident. He said, "My casting director suggested them, and I jumped because I love both of them. But now I think it's really funny for people who know."
Zabriskie was on board first, cast as Manson's mother, back when Dupieux still conceived of Wrong Cops as a series of interlocking shorts. His original idea was for "a movie, but organized like a miniseries. Each cop was having their own special moment in a chapter." Early edits of the film reflected that idea, and the first chapter, with Manson, Zabriskie, and Burnham, played at Cannes this year. But when editing the complete feature, Dupieux quickly threw that structure out. "It was a little too slow," he said, "so I went back to the editing room and messed up everything." One of the biggest victims of the remix was that opening sequence. Dupieux said, "These scenes were not working in the long format, so I had to remove a lot of Grace. What was shot for the first chapter is still somewhere online, but that's a regret I have."
Not that he's letting regrets slow him down. With Wrong Cops opening this weekend, he's already wrapping up the sound mix on his next feature, Réalité (starring actor/director/the French voice of Shrek Alain Chabat and Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder), which he called "my more personal project." He's also working on a conceptual experimental piece with Manson. He said, "I'm shooting different material. It's a workshop and I'm getting some interesting stuff."
Wrong Cops opens Jan. 17 at the Alamo Slaughter Lane. For more on Wrong, read "So 'Wrong,' but So Right," March 29, 2013.