Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Rubber DVD review

This all makes perfect sense in the film, trust me

Whatever you end up thinking of Rubber, you can’t say that it doesn’t warn you. “This film is an homage to ‘No Reason’, that most powerful of elements,” it tells you, right from the off. This is actually handy, as otherwise you may have had some issue with a feature film about the murderous rampage of a psychokinetic car tyre. Yeah, you heard.

Now, I’m prepared to cut artists plenty of slack if they go out on a limb in the hope of being inventive and original, but Rubber takes some serious risks in testing the patience, so thank fuck that writer/director/editor/composer Quentin Dupieux - better known as Mr Oizo, him what gave the world the Levi’s-endorsed Flat Eric - has instead made a smart, clever, striking and original feature, though granted it does still test the patience, and may be overly smart-arse in places.

Soaked to the pants in post-modernism, Rubber critiques the basis of much of pop culture, in that there’s no real legit reason for any narrative action, and that many are simply ridiculous *whistles nonchalantly while looking in the direction of Transformers* and what is more No Reason than the entire age of reality TV? Anything more so than Rebecca Black? Taking that as the jump-off point, it follows the journey of Robert, the tyre whose reign of terror we follow. Knowing the cinematic issues he faces, Dupieux spends the opening ten minutes giving Robert as much humanity as possible, filming it in almost a nature documentary style as he discovers his own strength, with a face-off with a beer bottle proving to be weirdly touching and compelling. There’s a remarkable tactile feel to it, thanks to the superb camerawork, which allows the tiniest detail to speak volumes. There’s also a Wall-E feel to the opening – a lone presence silently functioning in a sprawling landscape, until he becomes fixated with a girl, in this case Sheila (Roxanne Mesquida). Pursuing her into town draws Robert into human territory, where the carnage begins. Dupieux isn’t overly concerned with the claret, more about the conventions of narrative cinema, which is backed up by a key part of the film – the presence of an audience within the film, whose presence proves vital to the plot, and allows the director to piss about with the relationship between the film and the viewer. To many that may be an eccentricity too far, but it does at least provide another gear just when the initial joke tyres, sorry, tires *shoots self for allowing that joke to slip in*

Much will depend on your love of genre movies and cult cinema. Rubber is very much a concept piece, with its subversion of cinema conventions always to the fore. As a result there’s a wilful hollowness that adds a quirky cultish quality, but will set a time limit for everyone else’s endurance – the performances are average and the characters are no more than narrative markers. It feels like a counterpoint to Synecdoche, which managed to draw warmth and empathy while jerking with the viewer’s expectations – Rubber at times feels like the greatest art school project ever. This means that Dupieux has plenty to do before he can be compared to the likes of Gondry and Kaufman, but he’s earned the right to have another pop at it.

Rubber is out now on DVD.


  1. I think I'll take a punt. Likewise, if you've not seen Six String Samurai, it's well worth digging out.

  2. Ta for the tip, John. I've actually tried watching Six String Samurai before, but didn't get on with it. Maybe now's the time to have another pop...