What reason does a tire need to quiver to life in the middle of the Mojave Desert and undertake a killing spree? What reason do a dozen spectators need to gather in that same desert with binoculars and sleeping bags and comment on the tire’s actions as though they were (like us) watching a movie? What reason does a pantless man need to share a cheap motel room with a wild turkey? Before we even have a chance to posit such queries to Rubber, one of its central characters, a Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), addresses the camera (and us) with questions of his own. “In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown?” Chad asks. “In The Pianist, by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide, and live like a bum, when he plays the piano so well?” The answer: “No reason.” (Unless of course you consider something like systematic Nazi antiSemitism to be a reason.) Every movie, Chad assures us, has an integral element of “no reason.” Which is perhaps another way of saying that the movie is the reason. So what’s the reason to see the movie—this movie? It certainly isn’t to ask more useless questions.
Rubber, out on DVD tomorrow from Mongrel Media (or on the 14th from Magnolia in the US), seems like a playful essay on artifice. (The audience-chorus, who at one point collectively launch into a feeding frenzy right out of a Living Dead movie, is reminiscent of devices seized by the American avant-garde theatre of the 1960s.) Thing is, there’s not much thesis (beyond, say, the notion that the things we discard will rise up from our collective anxiety and slaughter us in our ironic bewilderment), but there is a whole lot of playfulness. Recalling both Scanners (1981) and numerous Stephen King narratives, Rubber is a meta-horror about a telekinetic tire named Robert. His first victim is a plastic bottle, quickly followed by a scorpion, before moving on to larger and messier mammals. The tire’s got something on its mind, it seems. It’s got feelings. It’s infatuated with a lone traveler played by the pretty older sister from Fat Girl (2001). It even has memories: there is an allusion to some smoky tire genocide.
Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr. Oizo
Rubber is the second feature from French writer/director Quentin Dupieux, aka: Mr. Oizo, recording artist for Ed Banger Records, following the little seen Steak (2007). There’s much to recommend Rubber on a bit-by-bit basis, though it runs out of fuel long before the end of the road. Regardless, its audacity, resourcefulness and propulsive silliness convey an appealingly distinctive sensibility. You’re left with the impression that there’s plenty of tread left on Dupieux’s goofball imagination.