|This poster best gives you a sense of the film|
What Rubber is, is an odd slow-paced existentialist homage to "no reason". We are treated to a bizarre opening monologue from a sheriff, direct to camera, all about films and things having no reason. There is a group of spectators, here to watch the "film" through binoculars. They bicker and watch (even stopping one guy from recording) as events unfold. And what are they watching? Yes, a tyre that gains sentience (for no reason) and explodes people's heads with it's psychokinetic powers (again, no reason), going on a kill-crazy rampage (there is something of a reason here though).
Events unfold slowly, with fairly bad acting from most of the cast. The Sheriff and, yes, the tyre give the most convincing performances. The tyre (or Robert, as it is billed) is given quite wonderful life, in that odd way that inanimate objects can be. At no point in the film are you left wondering about the tyre's motivations or feelings. The film often looks like it may have been shot on digital, but Dupieux still composes some really beautiful shots in the desert. And some of those beautiful shots are of things (rabbit, crow, heads) exploding. There has been, thankfully, no expense spared when it comes to the ka-BOOM. All of the effects look practical, bloody and wet. They look the better for it, and seamless to boot. There is a dark vein of black humour throughout, but (at least when I saw it) this raises little more than titters from the audience and the remainder of the run-time is as dry as the desert where it is set.
I can't help but feel that the trailer, and subsequent marketing materials, pulled something of a "bait-and-switch". The trailer and various posters sold the oddity, the action, humour and B-movie characterisations of Rubber, but not the long, dry silences and meta-textual themes. And yes, the argument is easily made for wanting to sell the film and getting people in to see it... but this type of advertising can easily back-fire. This is almost the opposite of my experience with Catfish: I went knowing and expecting nothing and was delighted in return. With Rubber I obviously entered with false assumptions and left feeling... I don't know. Rubber is indeed a strange beast of a film and I don't think any advertising could properly prepare you for what you see. It's a film that doesn't think much of it's audience: and not in the way you feel that summer blockbusters think people are idiots. Rather, the spectators serve as the film-makers' persepctive on the audience and they do not come out well.
I'm not really sure where I fall when it comes to Rubber. I didn't get what I wanted, or expected, from the film but I can't help but feel there might be something strange and original there. It doesn't fulfill the strange promise of gory exploitation (a different kind of blaxpoitation?) and I'm really not sure what the whole point was. I'm strangely reminded of an episode of the brilliant Futurama: giant evil brains attack Earth and the only one who can stop them is the gentle idiot Fry, by trapping them in a literary loop. The head evil brain is fooled and the brains fly off proclaiming: "And now we must leave Earth for no raisin!" It's brilliant, pulpy, funny and bizarre. Kinda what I was hoping Rubber would be.