Rubber (2010)

Careful Where You Tread.
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Rubber - Careful Where You Tread.

It is difficult to form a solid opinion on a movie as bizarre as Rubber. A film in which the main focus is a sentient psychic tyre with an evil streak and a penchant for shattering human skulls. The basis for the film is that things in films happen for "no reason". The movie more than acknowledges the irony in this premise and continually rubs its dictum in the face of the movie's attendees like Peter North in his demo reel. Before viewing it feels like this should be a trashy sci-fi B-movie with ludicrously poor over-acting and a multitude of splatter. It manages to deliver some of this but the trashiness is curiously only hinted at. What is in fact delivered is a visually impressive, bigger budget looking movie with a well thought through screenplay bordering on the artistically pretentious rather than the sleazily ludicrous. The reason for the object of choice to be a psychic tyre is the "no reason" aspect whereas everything else seems to be appropriately placed for this peculiar plot device.

The movie is self deprecating on a number of levels. There is an audience portrayed within the film watching the rubbery events through binoculars and they can be quite critical at times, hinting at the pomposity of the current endeavour while subtly delivering a sermon on cinema etiquette. This aspect can come across almost insulting to the genuine audience at times as if there is "no reason" to even be watching Rubber as there is an on-screen audience telling us what to think. At times, this feels like the movie justifying its own existence. The boundaries of these spectators are often intruded by the events taking place in the film about the tyre and some of the characters participating in these antics are fully aware of their status as actors in a film (some of them are unaware of the fiction in which they are participating, a concept that isn't explained and for which we are given no reason). A subplot is injected where the characters that exist in both the film world and the audience world try to poison the audience to end the film early. This once again seems like a self criticism, almost daring the real-world viewer to hit the eject button.

In opposition to this there are times where the film behaves way above its station. This could be an intentional action to align the genuine audience with the binocular clad audience. Even the tagline "Are you tired of the expected?" seems a bit bombastic, maybe due to the printed irony being lost on those that use British spelling. Rubber is ridiculous and there are times when you wonder how the cast can get through their scene with such a serious demeanour but, apart from the overall oddness, the humour aspect is very deadpan and underplayed. It manages to take itself seriously despite the subject matter.

It takes a while for anything shocky to happen and throughout the first thirty minutes there is continually the thought that this scenario cannot be maintained for the full length of the movie. Oddly enough the beginning of the film invests a gracious quota of time to developing the character of the tyre as it learns of its consciousness, its destructive tendencies and its discovery of psychokinetic abilities. There are times further on when the tyre is having downtime and watching motor racing or looking at the tragedy that is a tyre fire. They manage to give an object a character, feelings and motivations. This is quite a feat with no dialogue and little flexibility to express body language.

The soundtrack for the film is a joy, sometimes reminiscent of the inappropriately placed music in old exploitation movies. It is worth mentioning that the director of Rubber is Quentin Dupieux who is probably better known as Mr. Oizo, the DJ responsible for "Flat Beat" and that endearingly annoying puppet becoming annoyingly popular throughout the annoying parts of Europe. For this reason it is expected that attention would be given to the musical aspect of the film. This may also explain some of the quirkiness of the whole project. Those that come from a different artform and move into filmmaking often bring a touch of the unconventional. It is not worth mentioning that Rubber's Lover has nothing to do with this film but would make for an interesting sequel concept had it not been made 14 years earlier.

Often cited as a "Marmite film", Rubber is definitely okay in small doses occasionally but when they lay it on thick it can be a bit overwhelming... that's what they mean right? It is easy to see why this film splits audiences but the reason for the split is probably not what was anticipated. The preachy aspect of the film can become a bit annoying (especially if something less arty was expected) and this is a good enough reason to form a dislike. There is a huge attention to detail invested on an offbeat topic, an apparent influence from B-movies from previous decades without becoming one itself, a few eccentrically interwoven threads and a plethora of erupted brain tissue; these are reasons to form a like. Whether the film is enjoyed or whether it is considered a bit wanky, it is undoubtedly an act of bravery and Dupieux pulls it off and Rubber makes me glad he knocked one out.
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