Sometimes a film needs years before it reaches cult status, others attain it only based on a simple web trailer released (think Iguchi's Machine Girl).
Rubber falls in the latter category. Ever since word got out on this
film, pulp and genre fans have been eagerly awaiting the new Dupieux
feature. Luckily it stands up to all expectations and delivers
everything you might have wished for, and a little extra. Brace yourself
to enter the life of a killing tire.
You heard that right ... this film is about a killer tire on the loose.
The piece of rubber even has a name: Robert. Though it sounds pretty
insane, every now and than a film like this does pop up. Not too long
ago I watched Battle Heater Kotatsu (1990), a film about a killer table
stove. These things just happen I guess. What's really
about Rubber is that Dupieux found the capital and people to turn this
into something more than a juvenile, semi-amateurish feature length
film. Now there's something that completely boggles my mind.
While the name Quentin Dupieux might not ring a bell, maybe his moniker
Mr Oizo does. He's the electro/trash producer that made fame with Flat
Eric (the yellow, head-bopping puppet) when it was first featured in a
Levis commercial. He kept busy producing electro over the years, now
he's also ventured into the world of film, Rubber being already his
second feature (in 2007 he made Steak but that one completely fell off
the radar). He did most of the work on Rubber by himself, granting him
writing, music, cinematography and even editing credits. I guess he
likes to keep control over the end result.
While the trailer and all other advertising material might have you
believe this is a film about a killing tire, it's only half the truth.
Robert is definitely the main attraction, but there's a whole absurdist
addition of a live audience following the "film" from a distance (using
binoculars to get a better view). A welcome diversion as 70 minutes of
rolling tires would've been a bit much.
Visually Rubber turned out to be much better than I expected. There are a
fair few typical genre shots here, showcasing Dupieux's love and
knowledge of the genre, most notably a "behind-the-back" shot when the
tire is looking into a hotel room. Little visual references like that
add something valuable to the overall feel of the film. Rubber also
convinces on a technical level. While Robert's traveling shots might not
seem too impressive at first, it's actually quite an accomplishment to
move the tire through these rough surroundings in such a believable way,
even playing around with the lighting of the sun in the meantime. Good
The soundtrack too is pretty cool. Awesome sound effects whenever Robert
is blowing stuff up using his telekinetic powers, some very nice tunes
throughout and even some lovely misplaced music just for the fun of it.
Dupieux's background in music is obvious, of which he makes good use.
The entire soundtrack could've been a little tighter as a whole, but the
result is more than satisfying.
The acting is the only really weak part of the film, not surprisingly
the part where Dupieux had the least control. Stephen Spinella does a
decent job, the speech at the start of the film is quite unforgettable
indeed, but the rest of the cast does very little with what they are
given. For what is basically a deadpan comedy, Dupieux should've picked a
cast with a bit more talent for comedy. Guess he still needs some
training when it comes to pushing his actors in the right direction.
Rubber's promotional material is somewhat misleading in the sense that
it tries to sell the film as pure nonsensical pulpy fun, while the
actual film is actually much more related to deadpan comedy heroics like
Dai-Nipponjin. The humor comes from slow pacing and the somewhat serious approach
towards its actual core story (a tire coming to life). Don't expect to
see much beyond that in the way of pulp, because you might leave the
film terribly disappointed.
The extra abstract layer is fun but could've been much better if Dupieux
had used a more experienced cast. While the absurdity of the whole
situation is pretty ingenious, the humor comes in stilted dialogues and
badly acted scenes, doing absolutely no justice to the ideas behind it. A
real shame, certainly considering the first monologue by Spinella and
the absolute potential it held.
No doubt Dupieux's film is going to reach a substantial audience based
on its trailer and some good hype alone. But if you go in expecting what
the promo material seems to promise chances are you'll leave a
disappointed man. Go with the flow of the film and you'll see that there
is a lot more to Rubber than a tire going loose on a killer spree.
Hidden behind some subpar acting work is an accomplished little abstract
comedy that delivers more than it promises.
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