When it comes to movies, nobody can rationalize all the fun out of the artform like the French. To a lot of them, the sheer joy of watching entertainment can only be justified if you can attach some sort of intellectual exercise to it. It could be a valid exercise but, more often than not, it’s a contrived argument to make an unpalatable piece of pretentious shit attractive.
Case in point: RUBBER by Electro-musician/director/visionnary Quentin Dupieux.
The film divides audiences despite getting glowing reviews from people at film festivals whose job it is to speak glowingly of all their selections, no matter how dull and incomprehensible they are. In fact, “dull and incomprehensible” is all the better since it imbues snobby viewers with an air of superiority to others. After all, if they didn’t fall asleep or writhe in pain, it’s obviously due to their higher intelligence and the bovine masses’ lack of appreciation for true art.
As someone who has both a (useless) Fine-Arts degree and an (equally useless) IQ of 140, I tend to disagree. I find it takes more talent to make people believe there is a killer tire on the loose than make a film where you constatly remind the audience of its obvious fakeness. Birdemic constantly reminds its audience it’s fake and I doubt anyone will make a case for the film’s director being a genius (unless they’re ironic hipsters or way beyond help). Edward D. Wood Jr. constantly makes us “aware of the filmic process” yet I don’t see intellectual snobs tripping over themselves to organize a tribute that isn’t either derisive or humorous in intent.
Contrarily to what you are being told in ad copy, RUBBER is not about a living tire with the psychokinetic power to make beer bottles, tin cans, crows, rabbits and, eventually, human heads explode. No siree, it’s about people stuck out in some desert-like limbo being forced to watch this nonsensical story -about a living tire with the psychokinetic power to make beer bottles, tin cans, crows, rabbits and, eventually, human heads explode – unfold from afar through binoculars. They do so for (drumroll please!) no reason! (Unless, of course, you count metaphor as one.)
“No reason” is the force that drives cinema- or so we are told by a policeman (Stephen Spinella) who opens the film by coming out of the trunk of a car. The driver hands him a glass of water which he holds as he delivers a speech about how things happen in movies with no reason given- just like in real life. He makes his point by pouring his glass of water on the ground. Oooooh, how clever! How philosophical! He was holding it FOR NO REASON.
You say SPOILER ALERT! I say FAIR WARNING!
So the people watch as “Robert” inexplicably comes to life and goes about discovering his killer psychokinetic abilities and murderous ways. Of course, he’ll have to begin stalking a “mysterious woman” who likes to shower naked (for no reason- other than the director being french.)
The members of the “audience” are denied food until, mad with hunger, they are fed a poisoned turkey by their captor/caretaker (Jack Plotnick). This, for some reason (although none is given), was to put an end to the story – as Lieutenant Chad explains to his deputies that nothing is real and pointless without an audience. However, one weelchair bound spectator (Wings Hauser) did not partake in the turkey eating frenzy and has survived- forcing this crap to continue until the tire gets reincarnated into a tricycle who leads a discarded tire uprising. (There! I just saved you the cost of rental).
Frankly, the whole psychokinetic power thing feels like a giant copout. Instead of witnessing people run over in many creative ways, we get to see “Robert” shiver and shake as its victims to go all Louis Del Grande on us – with brains ‘splodin’ all over the place. It’s a lot like a Van Damme fight where his “ability to down a man with one punch” robs us of a decent and satisfying martial arts routine. That certainly is the case as the tire’s grandiose rampage is conveyed via a slow pan across countless headless bodies days after it happened.
Come to think of it, had this been a short, I probably would’ve been all giddy about it. The problem is that, as a feature, the premise accumulates too much mileage and eventually falls flat. At 82 minutes, it feels a couple of hours too long.
So what unfolds is a stream of scenes designed to have us ask “why?” only to dismiss them as “no reason”. My personal theory on this is that the french have been subjected to so much bad dubbing over the years that they’ve been led to believe everything happens “for no reason” in cinema.
Frankly, I would’ve preferred a straightforward “killer tire” movie where I was made to believe the premise rather than feeling like some pseudo-intellectual asshole was sitting next to me and demonstrating his insecurities by pointing out every little bit of nonsense.
So the torture ends up coming not from the film’s premise itself but from the excruciating lecture that comes with it. We are denied a truly goofy premise that, in all its inherent stupidity, was promising to make my nipples hard with cinemasochistic delight.
So even as a guilty pleasure, I see no reason to watch this. No reason at all.
If this is originality, I’d rather an old retread.
PAIN LEVEL: 6/10
QUALITY OF PAIN: TIREsome (like these bad “clever” puns).