11 March 2011

RUBBER- Review

"In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In Love Story, why do the two characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason. In Oliver Stone's JFK, why is the President suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason. In the excellent Chain Saw Massacre by Tobe Hooper, why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom, or wash their hands, like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason. Worse, in The Pianist, by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide, and live like a bum, when he plays the piano so well? Once again, the answer is "no reason". I could go on for hours with more examples, the list is endless. 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."

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the weird world of Rubber.

Yep, this is that killer tyre movie you've been hearing about. Quentin Dupieux writes and directs the film, and nails his colours to the mast with the monologue quoted above. Stephen Spinella's Lieutenant Chad delivers this statement of intent, seemingly to the fourth wall, but then sets up a group of voyeurs with binoculars in the middle of the desert. They watch as a tyre comes to life, seemingly without reason, and starts killing almost everything it encounters. For no reason.

Via the framing device of the intrigued audience, distanced from the action and closer to you, the actual viewer, we get the clearest idea of what Dupieux is trying to do. Rubber is, as some might expect from the premise, a highly intellectual and comical take on monster-centric B-movies, like Sharktopus and its ilk. And in my experience of it, I strongly suspect that how well it works for you will be whether or not you find it funny, as well as comical, or smart, as well as intellectual.

You get the sense that Dupieux is very full of himself, in making this film, and at times, the smuggery of it all makes it a difficult watch. If you saw the trailer and hoped for dumb fun, you're best off sticking with the trailer. While Rubber is an intensely silly film, it's also very arch in its approach. It not only requires you to think about the monster/killer movies that have long been a staple of schlocky cinema, but it flat out asks you to think about it, and that's what will turn some people off the film.

It's a film that lasts just over 75 minutes, but it's very dry stuff in the beginning. After the initial idea of a head-sploding tyre roaming around the desert is established, it does become a succession of scenes in which our high concept trundles from place to place killing things off. There's some room to appreciate how well it's put together- the cinematography, sound design and special effects are all superb, and they elevate a script that would otherwise have less reason to be so pleased with itself. Luckily, it picks up somewhere in the last 20 minutes with a quickfire round of memorable scenes and quotable lines.

If you can stick with it during the lull, despite any lull being frankly unforgivable in a film so short, then there's some good stuff to be found in Rubber. The irony of it all works best when Stephen Spinella is on screen as the wily and yet incompetent Lieutenant Chad, and it's a great technical achievement, very well put together. But it is a high concept, ideally suited to a short film rather than a feature, pushed out for the maximum amount of mileage- and honestly, it's difficult to imagine such an assault on popular cinema appealing to everyone. At the moment, it costs $9.99 online, just to rent it. Why wouldn't you wait for the DVD or the limited cinema release and see it for cheaper? No reason.

Rubber is available from video on demand sites now, and will be released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on April 11th.

If you've seen Rubber, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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