March 03, 2013

RUBBER Is Bloody Good Fun

"You probably never gave it a thought, but all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason.  And you know why?  Because life itself is filled with no reason."
I decided to dramatically change gears for my second movie, trading in a classic sci-fi adventure story for a modern, bugnuts absurdist film about a sentient car tire who makes people's heads explode.

In other words, today's entry is going to be much shorter than yesterday's.

We start with an accountant standing in the desert holding about a dozen pairs of binoculars as a car drives down a dirt road filled with chairs.  The car swerves to knock down each individual chair, then pulls up in front of the camera, where a man in a sheriff's uniform emerges from the trunk and addresses the camera directly.  He rattles off a list of trivial movie details that have no explanation, (Why is E.T. brown?  Why does the couple in Love Story fall in love?  Why do we never see the characters in Texas Chainsaw Massacre go to the bathroom?) and then tells us that the movie we are about to see is "an homage to the 'no reason' - that most powerful element of style."  He then climbs back into the trunk and the car speeds away, leaving the accountant to hand out binoculars to the now revealed audience, a small group of people standing behind a velvet rope atop a desert outcropping.  Turns out the "movie" is actually happening live, observed from a distance by this collection of strangers.

Then things get really weird.

A car tire lies discarded in the desert, half buried in sand.  After a moment the tire stirs, spinning in place and pulling itself upright.  While never spoken in the film, the tire is credited as "Robert," so for the sake of ease I will refer to it by name from here on out.  After a few wobbly attempts, Robert gets himself rolling through the desert and quickly encounters a few obstacles.  He's able to roll over and crush an empty plastic water bottle easily enough, but a glass beer bottle gives him a bit more trouble.  As the music builds to a crescendo, Robert starts to tremble and pulsate until the bottle suddenly cracks into pieces.  A few minutes later he encounters a rabbit and, in a further test of his newfound psychokinetic powers, Robert makes the rabbit explode, leaving a pile of blood, guts and fur.  We then get an incredible music cue, with a soulful woman crooning out, "I don't want to be lonely anymore..."

Simply describing the plot beat-by-beat would do the film an incredible disservice so here's a quick summary: Robert encounters and falls in love with a beautiful French woman and follows her to a beat up roadside motel.  Whenever someone gets in his way, he lets loose his lethal telekinetic powers and blows up their head.  The action cuts back and forth between Robert's stalker-y killing spree and the reactions of the audience watching from far away.

Suffice it to say this movie is straight up WEIRD, but in the most wonderful way imaginable.  It's both a psycho-killer genre film and a sharp commentary upon those films and particularly the audiences that they attract.  It's also fucking gorgeously shot, which comes in handy when your main character is an inanimate object incapable of showing emotion.  That doesn't mean Robert's not compelling though; the film clocks in at a little over an hour and twenty minutes, but I could have easily spent another half hour watching this lone tire stalk its prey across the dusty landscape.  At one point Robert stumbles upon a huge pile of tires being burned in the desert.  We then cut to three days later, after Robert has blazed a trail of revenge and left a number of headless bodies in his wake.  It's a hilarious edit, but that's a sequence I would kill to watch.  And by the way, every head explosion is a crowd pleaser.  Each decapitation causes you to involuntarily tense up, then laugh in release at the pulpy celebration of blood, gore and carnage.

I also have to give serious kudos to the cast, all of whom totally commit to this gleefully bizarre reality.  There are a number of familiar faces, including Community's Charley Koontz (aka Fat Neil), young Devin Brochu (Hesher), 90's staple David Bowe (Weird Al's partner from UHF), Tarantino alum James Parks and a wheelchair bound Wings Hauser, who easily gets the best line in the movie.  ("Hey wait, it's not the end.  He's been reincarnated as a tricycle!")  Stephen Spinella is the standout as the sheriff who's desperately trying to maintain control of this "movie" when the action doesn't go quite according the plan and Jack Plotnick is also fabulously odd as the accountant.  I'm really looking forward to seeing him take the lead in Quentin Dupieux's next film, Wrong.

Above all else, Dupieux emerges as a filmmaker to watch.  While Rubber is hardly conventional (Dupieux's described it as similar to Friday The Thirteenth if it had been made by a nine year old) Dupieux's technique is absolutely flawless.  He also has a singular voice and I'm excited to see him grow over the course of his second and third films, both of which I hope to cover later on down the road.

Title: Rubber
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Charley Koontz, Devin Brochu
Year Of Release: 2010
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant (TV)

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