Posts Tagged ‘Rubber’

Changes in the way films are partaken of have resulted in what seem, to me, like odd experiments in distribution. For me the life-cycle of a movie is that it’s trailed, then released to theatres, before coming out on DVD a few months later and then eventually turning up on TV a couple of years after that, thus maximising the makers’ profit margins. For many years, after all, describing a film as going ‘straight to video’ was another way of saying that either it was a failure or fatally lacking in ambition or credibility.

Nowadays the makers of some low-cost films seem to be taking a different approach, maximising the profile their publicity budget allows them and releasing their movies in cinemas (usually in a limited way), on DVD, and over the internet simultaneously. I can sort of see the logic of this, and I for one would happily make the journey to a cinema to see a new film simply because I enjoy the filmgoing experience – but, then again, I am a weirdo and fundamentally unrepresentative of normal everyday people.

Anyway, one of the films benefitting from this kind of shotgun release strategy is Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, a… how on earth am I supposed to describe this film without sounding demented? I don’t know. Here goes.

In the deserts of the American southwest something relentlessly evil is stirring. These are the stirrings of a malevolent tyre, sprung suddenly to life. Possessed of a implacable hatred of all living things the tyre sets out on a rampage of bloody carnage, using its newfound psychokinetic powers to slaughter anyone who crosses its path…

Well, what can I say? It’s French. Actually, I haven’t come remotely close to doing Rubber justice as the film is much, much, much weirder than that brief synopsis suggests. This isn’t the laughing-up-its-sleeve gory B-movie spoof that it first appears to be (and which its advertising strongly suggests it is) but something much archer and more cerebral. Indications of this come almost at once as some of the main non-pneumatic characters appear and do elaborately inexplicable things, before one of them (Stephen Spinella)¬†gives a speech to camera listing supposedly inexplicable things that occur in great movies. Things happening (or not happening) for no reason are a major component of style – or so the argument runs – and one should not therefore dismiss a movie in which – say – a tyre comes to life and goes on a killing spree for no reason, simply because it’s self-evidently nonsense.

And we still haven’t got to the heart of Rubber. The central tyre-on-a-murderous-rampage plot is simply a hook on which the film-makers hang a great deal of post-modern commentary about the process of making a movie and anticipating the audience’s reactions while watching it. Most of the characters in Rubber are either members of an audience supposedly watching the film, or characters in the story who are well aware of their fictional status.

Rubber‘s central thesis – that having an irrational story can work to a film’s benefit – is fatally undermined by the fact that its own deeply irrational story is the heart of a film which isn’t nearly as brilliant as it thinks it is. Most of the stuff with the tyre is actually a lot of fun and technically adroit – the skilful use of cutting and camera angles somehow manages to give the tyre a distinct personality, and if nothing else it’s a more engaging screen presence than Mark Wahlberg – and the scenes where it does things like checking into motels and taking showers are entertaining in a deadpan sort of way. But we’re constantly dragged off into post-modern wiffling and characters commenting rather predictably on the film they’re appearing in.

I’m not sure Rubber is actually a bad film – as a piece of avant-garde absurdist surrealism it has a certain arch charm, it has a few genuinely funny moments, and at least at only 76 minutes long it doesn’t outstay its welcome – but the way it’s being marketed is, to be honest, deceitful. ‘The best killer tyre movie you’ll ever see!‘ shouts the poster. Not a new device, to be honest – a few years ago I was describing Ghost Rider to friends as ‘The best Nicolas Cage as a demonic burning skeleton motorcyclist vigilante movie ever made’, but at least Ghost Rider really was a movie about Nicolas Cage as a demonic burning skeleton motorcyclist vigilante. Rubber isn’t really a movie about a killer tyre. It would probably be a lot more fun if it was. It’s an ultimately interesting film, but very hard to like. It’s not nearly as energetic, schlocky, and – above all – entertaining as it might have been had the makers had the guts to play the concept straight, rather than seeking refuge in postmodernism. A disappointment – but the advertising department’s as much to blame as the director.

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