Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Optimum Region 2
A warning of sorts: Rubber is not the kind of movie you can talk about without giving some things away. If you need to go in completely blind then please ignore this post for now... and then come back here, read it and leave a comment after ;-)
I’d been waiting for Rubber to hit UK cinemas ever since I’d heard of its existence some months ago but, alas, it seems to have gone straight-to-DVD over here. This is a pity because I really wanted to watch this one with an audience to gauge their reaction to it... but still, if DVD is the only way I can get to see it over here...
This is how Rubber starts off...
Shots of chairs in a desert and then a guy holding a fistful of binoculars is seen waiting at one end of what seems to be a scattered row of chairs. A car pulls up and slowly and surely manages to knock over every chair... the trunk of the car opens and a man wearing a police uniform gets out, dumps his glasses, grabs a glass of water and starts talking to the camera... “In the Stephen Spielberg movie ET, why is the alien brown? No reason.” This is the start of a 3 minute ranting diatribe against the dogged expectation of meaning in everyday life (using lots of neat movie examples covering all kinds of movies from Love Story to Polanski’s The Pianist) and a mantra for the cult of “No reason.” After which the policeman pours the undrunk water onto the ground (Why did he do that? No reason, is my guess).
Well... an insistence on a philosophy that champions a lack of the coherence of minutia is actually a pretty good way of starting off a movie where a rubber tyre from a car pulls itself up from where it’s been half buried in the sand of the desert and becomes self aware... no reason to provide any hows or whys in this particular show after hearing that little soliloquy.
Binoculars are then issued to a group of people who are a metaphor for our camera eye and with these binoculars they will watch the events of the movie play out and then... the tyre awakes. This is interesting because the audience on screen is doubling as the viewer of the movie at the cinema or at home on DVD and this means that you’ve already got some kind of “them or us” bond going with this particular group of spectators... and this audience will dwindle in number as the movie progresses. And dwindle is perhaps a bit of an understatement considering what happens to them.
After seeing the trailer of Rubber a few months ago and becoming familiar with the concept of a tyre waking up and going on a killing spree (it can blow up things with its psychokinetic abilities... such as birds, bunnies and most definitely people) I expected Rubber to be a quirky, one joke wonder which was probably worth watching once but... surely... the joke (like the tread on the films main protagonist, Robert the tyre) will wear thin after a while. But no... I was surprised, delighted and impressed to find that this movie is both quirky and sincere enough to engage the viewer for the full length of its running time... and seriously, it could even have been a little longer.
Rubber is not just the story of the tire though... a tire which develops a crush on a girl, follows her, takes a shower, watches TV and kills people. Oh, no... at least as important is the metatextual elaboration on the content of the movie by an audience (and soon a starving audience) and the responding commentary from the policeman character (and his little helper) within the main text as he observes and, quite terminally, manipulates that audience in a kind of backwards and forwards as text and subtext kind of battle for supremacy and you try to work out which, if any, is this movies representation of a shared reality.
This has the potential to get boring very quickly but it never does... the acting is engaging, the characters are quirky and are happy to play in a world which is neither owned or created by any illusion of a consistent reality and which has no creator other than, presumably, the guy who wrote the script in the first place. This film also has lots of gore (lots of exploding heads in this one) and an observed plot which just gets sillier and sillier as the film progresses. There’s really not much not to like in this movie unless you’re cursed with one of those heads that doesn’t easily accept deviations from a linear narrative. This film does have an ending (of sorts) but it doesn’t necessarily follow any logical or rational set up from within what I shall hesitantly call the main storyline... for want of a better term.
The soundtrack is quite quirky too and pitches against some of the dialogue punctuation like an homage to early Hal Hartley features in some respects but which is at its most memorable when casually aping John Carpenters early scores. But in no way does it try to bolster the emotional content of the movie like the majority of scores try to do these days... it doesn’t at any time collapse under its own weight. It’s quite light and buoyant and this does help maintain the surreal absurdity of the events depicted therein.
And that’s all I can really say about this movie without spoiling it too much I guess. It’s witty, quite dark, vague in its intentions (apart from maybe the ending which is very much a metaphor for a call to arms for the rise of independent film against the big studios) and honestly about as entertaining as it can possibly get with a bonkers premise like this.
Fans of cinema should love this movie. Fans of directors like Bunuel, Jodorosky, Lynch and Svankmajer should love it even more.
But you... yeah you reading this here article. Why should you go and watch this movie?
Oh... you know... no reason.