Fantastic Fest Review: Quentin Dupieux's Anomalous 'Rubber'
by Jeremy Kirk
September 28, 2010
No reason. That's a safe moniker to throw at your audience, particularly when your film is about a rubber tire named Robert with a taste for blood. This is the general premise behind Rubber, the new French film from Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr. Oizo), that opens up the idea that anything goes right at the beginning. As Stephen Spinella's Lieutenant Chad explains to us in the film's opening monologue, questioning what you are about to see is as inane as asking why E.T. is brown. No reason. Why did the people in Texas Chainsaw Massacre never wash their hands? No reason. If trivial questions like those can be viewed as meaningless within the confines of the world of cinema, larger, much more pointed questions, questions like why was Kennedy assassinated in Oliver Stone's film, JFK, (again, as Spinella tells us, there was no reason) could have meaningless consequences, as well.
Hence, as Rubber shows us, a deserted tire left in the California desert could very well pull itself out of the sand. It could roll itself down the paved roads. It could find it has telepathic powers that can destroy anything and everything in its path, and, if that is possible, that same rubber tire could also have a thirst for blood. That is precisely what we have here, and Dupieux's film comes off as hilarious, wholly original, and provides a strong commentary on the way we perceive stories, particularly in this world of film.
Rubber is a satire. The story at hand would have a much harder time working were it not. But found within this satire on meaning in narrative are extreme moments of both hilarity and horror. The way Dupieux has Robert move, especially in the film's opening scenes, comes off as even cute. When Robert realizes his power, that he can make things blow up such as glass bottles, beer cans, or even the heads of human beings, he plays with it like a child finding a new toy. It's funny. It's sweet, and it doesn't really matter that human lives are at stake. Besides, they're all made up characters in a fake movie, right?
Dupieux creates a complete character in Robert, an animated object that has no motivation other than to reek havoc, an inhuman character that still effortlessly pulls in the audience. You might not be able to relate to Robert. Who really can? But there's an understanding in what he does. Robert is as much alive as a character than any human found elsewhere in the film.
But there is even more craziness, more elements about Rubber without purpose than just a tire telepathically blowing up people's heads up. Observing Robert from afar, playing the part of the audience even within the confines of the film, is a group of binocular-gazing voyeurs. They discuss Robert and what he is doing. The leader of their group, a wheelchair-bound Wings Hauser, seems to be the only one who fully understands the idea of "no reason," and that fact alone might be why the story of that group plays out the way it does. They are voyeurs. We're voyeurs alike. The only ones who will make it to the end are those who embrace the purposeless concept. Once you begin to question, you might as well leave the film altogether.
Absolutely surreal and brimming with meta commentary, Quentin Dupieux's Rubber is an absolute must-see for anyone looking for completely something outside the norm. Beautifully shot, uproariously funny, and absolutely mind-pounding, it is truly a rare find that does so much more than entertain. Very little can be said negatively about Rubber other than it may run a little long for something with such a small, driving narrative. Anything else that falls on the con side of the film can be chalked up and swatted away via those two, little words that bear so much meaning: No reason.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 9 out of 10