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Rubber

a film by Quentin Dupieux

What can one really say about a movie concerning a sentient, serial killer tire that hasn't already been said a thousand times before? I mean, if you've seen one serial killer tire movie, you've seen them all. Am I right? They are a dime a dozen in this world of modern moviemaking. Obviously I am joking, but really, how seriously can one take a movie such as Rubber? One must certainly be as tongue-in-cheek when writing about the movie as writer/director Quentin Dupieux most surely was while creating it. But one thing I am not going to joke about is how much I enjoyed the damned thing. And brother, I ain't kidding. It may not be a great film (or even a good one by some people's standards) but it surely is a unique piece of moviemaking from a unique kind of filmmaker.

As far as the basic storyline goes, it is that tale as old as time - the story of a suddenly sentient old tire (named Robert in the credits but never given a name - or voice - anywhere in the film) who finds out he can blow things up with his, for lack of a better word, mind. Rolling around an old dusty desert highway, Robert goes from crushing abandoned beer bottles to offing birds and bunnies to eventually doing in the humans that get in his way - all in a giddy, gory and quite cheesy manner that is reminiscent of a B-grade Cronenberg. At one point, the stoic serial killer hunk of titular rubber comes across a beautiful woman driving down the highway and acting genre-appropriately aloof, with her ebon hair crisscrossing her face in the wind. He of course, as only a sentient tire can, falls tread over tread in love.

This melancholy girl-of-a-tire's-dream is played by the ultra-vixenish Catherine Breillat paramour Roxane Mesquida (last seen as a psychosexual witch with relationship issues in Gregg Araki's Kaboom but most noted for being the objet de' obsessione of Anne Parillaud in the equally psychosexual Sex is Comedy). It is she Robert follows to the inevitable roadside motel. It is she Robert listens to from the room next door. It is she Robert spies on while in the shower. Perhaps it is she Robert is thinking of while he is in the shower and perhaps it is even she Robert is killing for. Whatever the case, the bodies begin to pile up and the onlookers are getting a bit angsty. Oh, did I not mention the dozen or so spectators watching from some unspecified desert-bound locale, binoculars in hand, knowing full well they are watching a movie in progress? Yeah, it's that kind of movie.

Sort of a meta-slasher movie-within-a-movie (but not quite!) Dupieux has concocted a piece of absurdist po-mo pop-art quasi-homage to the genre, and never once (the opening sees the film's obligatory cop-with-an-attitude explaining to these same said spectators that they are about to watch a movie) does he try to hide the fact that we are indeed watching just that very same thing. We are also never given any explanation whatsoever as to why Robert has suddenly sprung to life out of the sandy roadside nor why he has taken to killing everyone in his rubbery wake. This of course is quite preferable to some ridiculously mainstreamy explanatory note that does nothing more than pander to its audience. All this is par for the course that Dupieux is taking us down - or leading us down, just like those aforementioned binoculared by-standers, by our ever-curious WTF desire to see just what happens next. And we are not disappointed.

From the natural irrationality of a tire rolling about on a desert highway murder spree to the equal irrationality of a group of bickering moviegoers watching from the rocks on the next hill over to the (again) equal irrationality of that same tire falling for a random French girl in a convertible (not to mention the tainted turkey or the horrendous genocidal atrocity that Robert witnesses mid film) to the even more ludicrous - but grandly so - finale, Rubber is surely something to behold. Perhaps it is not the meta-spectacle that other recent stabs like Mulholland Dr. and Synecdoche, New York are (but then that is a tall order to fill for any movie and Dupieux probably isn't even going for that kind of thing anyway) and for that matter, it may not even be all that great of a film (who knows with such a beast as this) but for what it is (whatever the fuck that may be!) and for the way it presents itself, Rubber is quite the fun little film indeed. [04/17/11]

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