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Rubber

Year: 2010
Production Co: Realitism Films
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Stephen Spinella, Roxane Mesquida

You might have heard that this is a story about a rubber tire that comes to life and kills people. It definitely is that, but writer/director Quentin Dupieux is saying much, much more.

First of all, we start with a framing device of what seems to be a low-level clerk setting up folding chairs in a desert. A group of people arrive and are given a quick orientation into what they're about to experience. They're going to watch the story of how Robert the tyre (though he's never named in the film) is going to come to life and go on a murderous rampage while he tries to track down a mysterious woman driving across the country (Mesquida).

Every now and then we cross back to the crowd watching in the desert. They grow increasingly agitated, hungry and bored as they peer through binoculars waiting for something to happen, and their story is as much part of the movie – maybe more so – than the tyre's adventures, especially considering their fate and their relationship to the nerdy clerk who comes to attend to them by bicycle every day.

There's also a borderline stupid local police chief and his much smarter deputies who breaks the fourth wall of both stories, addressing the audience in the desert before driving off to take part in the slasher film taking place beyond.

At one point he breaks character with his deputies and tries to explain to them how none of what they're doing is real (to the extent of convincing them to shoot him) everyone except him apparently characters in a fabricated story without realising it, like that book Sophie's World from ages ago.

Meanwhile, Robert the tyre tests his powers (he shakes menacingly, emits that noise you've heard from a thousand movies of some nasty desert insect screeching, and his victim's head explodes from some telepathic attack). He starts on animals like a crow and a rabbit, and soon he's exploding heads of people everywhere in his pursuit of the woman he appears to be in love with.

In some of the most overtly funny scenes Robert takes a shower, goes swimming (he sinks straight to the bottom) and sits in a hotel bed quietly watching TV. You don't think much about the technical achievement of the Robert sequences, but when Pixar were making Wall.E they talked a lot about giving machine personalities. Dupieux manages to do the same with a rubber tyre, just by the way it moves, spins and leans.

There also doesn't seem to be any CGI involved in getting the tyre to move, yet several long and wide shots show it travelling in a very determined path that would be way to hard to do by just rolling it repeatedly and hoping it goes in the right direction.

But as far as the dual stories go, you've probably guessed by now there's a lot in there about the relationship between the audience and the fiction, about what's really true and what we make up. It's all very postmodern, the cinematic equivalent of that scientific principle where the act of observing influences the outcome. Repeated viewings would no doubt take you deeper into a philosophical rabbit hole.

But if you just want to enjoy the inherent humour in a story about a killer who happens to be a sentient tyre, it's also as funny as hell in parts too.

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