Film Review: Daaaaaalí!, Directed by Quentin Dupieux

Film Review: Daaaaaalí!, Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Quentin Dupieux is a 49-year-old director who’s gained a cult following, especially with the young, for his off-beat comedies. Similar to certain film geniuses of the past (Godard, Fassbinder, Raoul Ruiz) he makes movies fast and with a slapdash disregard for convention. That’s not to say that Dupieux is a genius, though he’s certainly prodigious (he’s also had a busy career in music at the same time). His last film, Yannick, a breakout of sorts, was about a young loser who holds an entire theater hostage after being offended by what he considers to be elitist snobbery. The film showed flashes of brilliance and its brevity helped give it the explosive charge of an M-80. Daaaaaalí! is also short, a mercy compared to recent bloated three-hour-plus “epics”. As usual Dupieux explores new territory. The movie is about the eponymous figure of the title: legendary surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Dalí is still probably the most widely-known artist of our time, his paintings of melting clocks familiar even to high-schoolers. But his iconic status has been superseded by Warhol, Basquiat, Koons. For most of the 20th century the Spanish artist, who proudly proclaimed himself mad and cultivated an eccentric appearance complete with pointy waxed moustache, was an international celebrity. He’s less remembered for that now – unlike at other Dupieux films the audience has been on the older side. Still from Daaaaaali! Atelier de Productions, France 3 Cinéma This isn’t just another biopic, fortunately. The premise in and of itself is banal: a youngish woman journalist (Anaïs Demoustier, who’s played in several Dupieux films) wants to interview Dali, which effort results in numerous absurd and amusing encounters. In fact, part of the premise is a bit odd: Judith was a pharmacist who abruptly quit her job and decided to become a journalist. We don’t really understand her reason for choosing Dalí as an interview subject. The movie seems to take place when Dalí is older (though we see him at different ages), no longer the outrageous global icon. It’s not even clear if she knows much about his work, though she declares herself a fan. Judith has a hard time at first. She’s a traditional journalist with a notepad, not even a tape-recorder, and Dali refuses to be interviewed in such a low-grade manner. He insists on being filmed (by the largest, most expensive camera available). Never-say-die Judith hooks up with a documentary-maker, Jérôme (Romain Duris), who’s happy to indulge in what seems like a viable project for TV or even the movies. Dalí is duly impressed by the idea of an entire documentary about his magisterial (in his own mind) person, but he keeps moving back the goal-posts regarding acceptable conditions, which is the central joke of the movie. Anaïs Demoustier at the Festival de Cabourg, 2018. Photo credit: Georges Biard / Wikimedia commons Salvador Dalí‘s own experience with cinema began with the surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou, which he made in France with fellow Spaniard Luis Buñuel. That was Dalí’s only major effort in the movies except for designing the dream sequences in Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Buñuel was the real cinematic artist, and filmically Dupieux seems to have been inspired by two late Buñuel films: First is That Obscure Object of Desire, in which a character played by Fernando Rey tries to seduce a young woman (played by two actresses), but is frustrated time and again by fate, the woman’s slyness, even by his own hidden blockages. Like Rey’s character, Judith must confront different realities, in Dalí, the world around her, and within herself.

Lead photo credit : Still from Daaaaaali! Atelier de Productions, France 3 Cinéma

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.