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I wanted to love it, but instead remain baffled by this wildly unique experiment
How does one succinctly describe Rubber to another person, without sounding like a lunatic? Is it even possible to try and theorize, or try and explain the story of an inanimate tire named Robert, who has the simultaneous abilities of being able to move on its own and use telekinetic powers to destroy anything and anyone that comes in its way? I am beginning to think I sound a little off just as I write this, but baffled expressions and thoughts aside, Rubber is one of the most original and unique films anyone is bound to see. But there is a price for being so exceptionally different than other films.
For one, Rubber is more of an experiment than it is a film. Yes, the idea of the tire rolling around and killing people (mostly by making their heads explode in violent messes) is joyfully and bewilderingly hilarious at first. But once you get past the initial shock value of something so simple yet so ridiculous, you need to begin to wonder what writer/director Quentin Dupieux's intentions were with making this film. Did he want to create something so out of this world crazy, that the sheer idea of a killer tire becomes the film's main selling point? I was immediately intrigued when I first heard the idea, but as the film moved along, I found myself more dumbfounded than anything into thinking it was a good idea to make a whole movie revolving around a melancholic tire.
Dupieux adds in a bit of self-awareness, by adding an audience into the picture, who watch Robert's actions from a far via binoculars. Their addition to the film is never explained, nor are their actions or what happens to them as the film goes on. They simply exist to watch what Robert does (his actions acting almost as a film within a film), offer their opinions (which are oddly similar to that of the real audience) and help Dupieux break the fourth wall. The opening of the film has Stephen Spinella's Lieutenant Chad rhyme off to the audience (both within the film, and watching the actual film) how a good chunk of Hollywood films have elements within them that exist for no reason. And the audience within the film seems to have only been added to help move along this theory and agenda. It is a baffling and odd choice, one that left me confused after I first became aware of what was going on. It offers a few laughs here and there, but much like the idea that drives the film, it is just weird and absurd.
Except that seems to be the point of the whole project behind Rubber: to create a silly film, based on a silly idea, and try to alienate the audience watching it. It takes itself deadly serious, but deep down, it does know it is silly. But it also knows it is otherworldly too. It does what few films do, and engages the audience's thinking and relative scope of reality. It bends the schematics of the filmmaking medium, and what we do and do not know about it, and alters and modifies it to its own liking. Of course, since the film was made in France, it could be deemed an offshoot or a film made in the image of its brethren of the French New Wave. But at the same time, it may just simply exist to play with what we know, and give us something wild and unlike anything we have ever really seen before.
But being unique is a bit of a double edged sword in the case of Rubber. For all the wacky and odd choices it makes in its attempt to be unique, it also ends up being incredibly boring and inane. As hinted at before, after you get past the idea of what Robert can do, there really is nowhere else for the film to go. A synopsis suggests he is obsessed and fascinated by a mysterious woman named Sheila (Roxane Mesquida). But she only appears sparingly in the 80-minute film, and she never really has a chance to make an impact at all. Perhaps Robert is seeing something we as an audience have missed? For such a short running time, Rubber runs out of a lot of ideas a bit too fast, and by the time the deranged ending takes place, it stops making any sense at all, either in our reality or the reality the film sets up for itself.
While I cannot say that I was anything but disappointed in the film, I also have to contend that its power lies in the unexpected. There is no proper way to prepare yourself for what you will see, and watching the trailers will only confuse you further. There really could have been any number of extensive things Dupieux could have added to the film to make it better, but listing them off would be just as silly as attempting to fully explain what he was trying to say.
There will be some people who will say I just did not understand Rubber, but after carefully considering the elements that make up the film, there really is no way to explain or even attempt to decipher what it all means. Dupieux put this enigmatic movie together for fun, to toy with the audience and with film conventions. It is an experiment first, and a film second. Some may find it brilliant, some just baffling. I will stick with being confused and disappointed. But at least the film managed to maintain being entertaining, even if its inanity and silliness became a bit much.
(This review also appeared on http://www.geekspeakmagazine.com).
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