We’re Glue; ‘Rubber’ Bounces Off the Wall Style Onto Audience, Sticks It Well

A Film Review by Joey Nolfi
Originally Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 23, 2011
A tire, the film’s protagonist, approaches a mannequin in ‘Rubber’

 A barren desert landscape. An old rusty muscle car barreling through a forest of folding chairs. A policeman steps out of the trunk and informs you (yes, you in the audience) that many of the things you’re about to witness will happen for “no reason.” He picks up a glass of water, dumps half of it out, and gets back into the trunk. Yep, this is going to be weird.

And not to make “weird” sound like a negative descriptor, because writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s “Rubber” is a film that delights in its absurd qualities and presents them in a technically astounding package.

Channeling all the avant-garde oddity only a 1960s James Broughton release could muster,  Dupieux’s film is keen on appealing to anyone who is intrigued by the thought of following a narrative with a tire as its sole protagonist. “Rubber” is indeed that narrative, and it’s definitely not a film for the masses. Dupieux tries his hardest to let you know that he knows that.

The tire inexplicably comes to life, meanders through the desert, and progressively becomes an “angry” inanimate object, using its unexplainable telekinetic powers to stop car engines, shatter beer bottles, and gruesomely dismember any fluffy little bunny rabbits that happen to cross its path. The whole thing could have functioned as an anti-conventional gimmick, what with aligning an audience with a lifeless object, but here the tire’s presence thematically facilitates things on a grander scale considering there are human characters to deal with, too, many of whom meet the same fate as the poor little bunnies.

While the visual exploitation of flesh and violence aren’t shied away from, Mr. Dupieux places everything within a diegetic space that is very much his own, and uniquely so. Although we’re constantly reminded that the film contains things which happen for “no reason,” that very declaration ultimately gives the film, well, reasonable meaning. Whether Mr. Dupieux realizes this is questionable, considering his script contains characters clearly meant to represent a shallow commercial public as well as deliberately defying causal logic we’ve all been conditioned to ever since watching our first film.

“Rubber” defies cinematic convention like the bad kid at the back of the class throwing spitballs while the teacher’s back is turned. Sometimes it rings humorous, but often it’s deliberately irritating, and that’s unmistakably Mr. Dupieux’s intent. “Rubber” is his war cry against cinema’s most staunch traditionalists, bathed in tonal absurdity and tossed-aside logic.

Dupieux mocks commercial audiences with a diegetic crowd pouncing on food

As the film progresses, commentary on mainstream culture becomes all the more vicious, but getting analytical about things would be a waste. “Rubber” is a clear test of its audience’s tolerance level. So, it’s best not to view it as one of those “arty” movies with a loaded statement. If you do, you’ll only frustrate yourself even more. The film is instead a challenge to everything you think you know about cinema. If you open your mind a bit, you might walk away from it feeling as accomplished as tolerating an assault on your conditioned conscience can make you feel. In essence, the film will anger only those who let it.

“Rubber” deserves praise (and a viewing) if only for its absurd spirit alone, but the film is probably best digested when applying its self-proclaimed “no reason” logic to understanding it as a whole, and of course there’s some meaty social commentary on its bones as well.

But if any of this isn’t your style, you can at least still appreciate the simple hilarity of exploding bunnies, right?

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