When I first heard that there was a new movie out about a tire that becomes a serial killer I was intrigued. When I learned that it is the work of French director Quentin Dupieux, I decided it was bound to be rubbish…until I discovered that Quentin Dupieux is better known as Mr. Oizo, the electro house musician who brought us the infectious 1999 hit single Flat Beat. Then I had to see it!
Rubber is the story of a tire. The tire’s name is Robert. One day Robert becomes sentient and decides to venture out into the world. It’s a moving scene as Robert takes his first halting rolls and discovers the joy of squashing a plastic bottle and then a scorpion, until he is stopped by a glass bottle. frustrated Robert soon discovers his true power…he can make things blow-up with his mind. Pretty soon he’s on the road and heading straight for the local population and a mysterious girl who he sets his sights on. Meanwhile on a remote hillside the audience have gathered to watch his apparent path of wanton destruction, with intrigue, apathy, joy and sadness. Standing between them and their viewing pleasure is a cranky sheriff who really wants to go home, and the lack of food and basic resources, which sets the crowd on edge.
If that all sounds a bit weird then believe me that’s not even the half of it. Rubber is a deeply strange movie. Robert is almost a sympathic character. The way he is framed and the audience’s investment in his “birth” and journey give him a Wall-E type of existence. He almost wish that he succeeds in his apparent mission of getting the girl. Roxane Mesquida plays the girl. Unfortunately she’s given little else to do than be the token female. Aside from a brief scene were she’s forced to try lure Robert into a trap she doesn’t even say much. The real star of the show is Stephen Spinella as Lieutenant Chad, the world weary law-man who is convinced it’s all a show and that the movie would be over if the audience just went away. He’s opening monologue, direct to camera, is a work of twisted genius.
Spinella’s opening monologue in fact sets the tone for the whole movie. Right off the bat you know that this is not a straight-forward horror, it’s actually more satire or comedy than horror truth be told, with Spinella announcing that the movie exists “for no particular reason”. Dupieux has managed to make a film that harks back to Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane, without being a spoof, and has a cinematic quality that would be totally at home in a western. His framing of Robert is such as to make a viable character from an inanimate object. The decision to ignore the fourth wall, by placing the audience in the movie itself is a brave one, and mostly it works. It provides an aisde to the central story, which is sadly lacking in legs, and imbues the entire movie with it’s sense of oddness.
Inventive, stupid and completely unnecessary…yet offering something completely different Rubber is one that will confound and titillate in equal measures. Personally I found it to be a lot of fun.