Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: Rubber

Rubber (2010, trailer) is an independent, micro-budget monster movie in which the monster is a black rubber tyre.


In the California desert a discarded tyre raises itself up and rolls away. It is now sentient, and we see it experience anger and longing.

The tyre also has the power to kill via psychic explosions.

My Take

Rubber intends to be more than just a silly, shlocky horror movie; it actually wants to deconstruct the whole concept of movies. We learn this right at the start, when Chad (Stephen Spinella) addresses us directly with the film's thesis:

'In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In Love Story, why do the two main characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason...In [Texas] Chain Saw Massacre, why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom or wash their hands like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason...all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason...Ladies, gentlemen, the film you are about to see today is an homage to the 'no reason', that most powerful element of style.'

I guess 'no reason' is also why the first shot of Rubber is of a car knocking down chairs, why the guy talking to us climbed out of the car's trunk, and why he poured a glass of water onto the ground after his speech.

And why there's a tyre going around killing people.

I guess what Rubber writer/director Quentin Dupieux is saying is that every detail in every movie is contrived. This is, of course, true. Writing, acting, aesthetics, sound, stunts and every other component of a movie requires input from someone.

I suppose it's also true that all ideas appear out of the ether, and that their existence could be chalked up to 'no reason'. However, I think that only the vaguest shape of a story idea can be attributed to the ether: a huge majority of the work that goes into the making of a (decent) film goes towards making sure everything links together and makes sense.

I should think that E.T. is brown because brown is a skin color that the audience can believe a real creature would have. A flourescent-purple E.T. would look so blatantly unrealistic that nobody watching would accept him as a real character on the movie's terms. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre doesn't have a hand-washing scene because that would be too boring and mundane for a film that is trying to tell an exciting story in 84 minutes. These are both reasons, not 'no reason's.

When filmmakers put enough effort into establishing a logical story and plugging plot holes, we the audience can believe in the film's reality enough to become immersed and entertained. The more the filmmakers care about their projects and apply 'reason' to them, the more engaging the finished films end up.

Rubber's 'no reason' premise just seems lazy to me. If every single plot point can be explained away by the same two words, then Rubber is infinitely more contrived than the films it mocks for being contrived. I also got the feeling that Rubber's script was the result of some sort of highfalutin, absurdist writing exercise; and that Dupieux doesn't really care about his own story. And if he doesn't care, why should I?

'No reason. Whatever. How 'bout we break for coffee?'

I can't get immersed in a film whose efforts to explain its simplistic, gimmicky agenda overshadows its efforts to be a good movie.

One thing I did like about Rubber was the animation of the tyre (identified as 'Robert' in the credits, presumably because the name's French pronunciation sounds like 'rubber').

'Robert' is an expertly realized creature effect that seems convincingly alive, not just rolled across the frame from off-screen. The footage of 'his' movement through the arid desert plays like a pleasantly surreal nature program.

You'll believe a tyre can murder.

In addition to writing and directing Rubber, Quentin Dupieux also did the music (with Gaspard Augé) and the cinematography. I hope in the future Dupieux's talents can be corralled into producing a more meaningful film.

Or any film that isn't Rubber 2.

Screengrabs: Rubber was produced by Realitism Films in association with Elle Driver, arte France Cinéma, 1.85 Films, Backup Films, Sindika Dokolo; and in participation with Canal+ and Arte France. The UK DVD was distributed by Optimum Releasing Ltd.

© Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and 'NickGBrown On Films', 2012-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and NickGBrown On Films with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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