Director: Quentin Dupieux
Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Cinematographer: Quentin Dupieux
Stars: Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida
Studio/Running Time: Magnet Releasing, 85 minutes
Quentin Dupieux is best known for the hard-edged electronic beats that he creates under his “Mr. Oizo” moniker, a precise and sinister machine-gun attack of bass, drums and synth. But when it comes to filmmaking, Dupieux allows the surrealist sense of the ridiculous often lurking beneath his music to take center stage.
Rubber, Dupieux’s third film, was shot on a small digital camera, but the California desert-scape in which it’s set gives it an expansive feel. He takes some obvious cues from Godard here, constantly alerting the audience that they are, indeed—and please don’t forget it—watching a film. He employs a sort of Greek chorus of spectators to this end, an audience within the film that comments on the film within the film and talks directly to the audience outside the film, while simultaneously functioning as an integral part of the plot. Don’t worry—this isn’t as confusing as it sounds when you are watching the movie. At times these intervals are amusing, at other times they become cringe-inducing and obvious, but they always serve to propel the film along and maintain its sense of the bizarre.
The less said about the film’s plot, the better. From the outset, Rubber displays its love of the possibilities of the ridiculous that the medium of film allows for. A man with an armful of binoculars stands in the middle of the desert as a car approaches, intentionally knocking over a bunch of chairs set up in a dried-up wash. The car stops, and a police officer hops out of the trunk with a glass of water in hand. He proceeds to ask questions about plot devices from well-known movies, answering each with the simple statement, “No reason.” The tone has been set—don’t take this film too seriously; there’s no reason why anything about to unfold does. For example, why does the soon to be revealed main character of the film, an old tire buried in the desert sand, awaken and begin a homicidal trajectory, graduating from bottles and birds to blowing up people’s heads? No reason. But it’s highly entertaining.
Elements of horror, grindhouse schlock, and art film mingle together here—clearly, all of these are close to Dupieux’s heart and he celebrates them while slyly winking at the audience. The special effects employed in making the tire move around and gory close-ups of heads exploding seem to be a combination of cheap practical tricks and expensive post-production, but they blend rather seamlessly (a Michael Bay film, thankfully, this isn’t). Considering Dupieux’s established work as a musician, the film’s score is decidedly understated. Dupieux (as Mr. Oizo) and Gaspard Auge (a member of Justice) are credited on the soundtrack, and both provide atmospheric easy listening electronic production that adds to rather than sets the mood. It’s not until the end of the film that an ominous and bumping track hits, appropriately setting up the end of the story.
Rubber has already been released digitally for Xbox, Playstation, Amazon and iTunes, but this inanimate object revenge fantasy seems better suited to viewing on the big screen.