Friday, October 21, 2011

Rubber

2010, Quentin Dupieux - Netflix

The Netflix description for this film is as follows:
Quentin Dupieux directs this inventive twist on low-rent revenge flicks, which follows a car tire named Robert that rolls through the desert Southwest using its strange psychic powers to blow up birds, bunnies, human beings and more. But when Robert spies a gorgeous woman motoring down the highway, he decides to follow her and take a chance on love.
Given that description, I went into viewing it thinking it was going some exceptionally weird, stop-motion animated student project.  Turns out, it's plenty weird but it's quite a bit more straightforward than I had presupposed, and far less painful (moreover downright enjoyable) than it should conceivably have been.

Watching the opening credits, listing Canal + as one of its backers, and seeing Mr. Oizo contributed to the film's score (with Justice's Gaspar Augé), I realized this was that film I literally just heard about last week when GAK played excerpts of the soundtrack Exploding Head Movies episode 85 (a decidedly apt connection).  Also Quentin Dupieux = Mr. Oizo.

If you were plugged into the turn of the millennium electronica scene, you know who Mr. Oizo is, and even if you weren't you may recall his single "Flat Beat" or Dupieux's Henson-created muppet Flat Eric who appeared in multiple Levis commercials for a time.





Given this connection, suddenly Rubber made a lot more sense.  A film about a semi-aware, discarded tire who has telekinetic powers, and vengefully explodes anyone or anything that might slight it seems like it should be the concept for a music video.  I wondered how exactly it would extend to near-feature length (82 minutes), and Depieux does this through the device of meta commentary.

The film has an A-story -- that of the tire (named "Robert" in the credits) -- and a B-story about the audience, which is a group of around a dozen people observing "the film", but in person, standing afar in the desert, watching with binoculars the events that we see close up on camera.

While the observers, and their wrangler, The Accountant (Jack Plotnick), are aware that they're observing a story, only one character in "the film" is also aware that it is a film.  Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) advises the observers (and the audience directly) that this film is an homage to the concept of "no reason".  Why do the events of this film happen?  No reason.  They just do.  (This is actually the weakest part of the film, as it seems to be attempting heady, art-student film commentary, but it's actually kind of ridiculing that type of conversation, it's just hard to tell either way at first).

The intersection of "the film" and "the observers" keeps criss-crossing throughout the film, as the observers impact how both "the film" and the film turn out.  It's not completely logical, but it's not illogical either.  It won't be for everyone, but if you have the right mindset, it's really quite entertaining.

It's not a horror film, though it has very minor aspects of that (mainly this crude, vindictive little tire), and it's not an outright comedy, so don't expect either.  It reminded me in parts of Wall-E and Six String Samurai, but the meta context throws those comparisons off drastically.  Depieux has a gifted eye for composition and much of the delight of the film is the manner in which he frames and shoots the picture, giving this innocuous rubber tire life (and I can hazard a guess as to how exactly the tire was "animated", but it's still a bit of a marvel to behold nonetheless). Ultimately it's just bizarro cinema, fitting quite comfortably in with say Guy Maddin or David Lynch, though not nearly as quirky as the former or remotely dark as the latter.


If you've read this far, you'll know whether this appeals to you... for no reason at all.