Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rubber

I caught this at the AFI fest last year, for which director Quentin Dupieux was present. That's how I know that he directed it in the nude, wearing one black glove.

Of course he didn’t. His movie is absurd, and he was accompanied on stage by a tire, the star of the film. Rubber opens in fine surrealist fashion, as a car slowly knocks down chairs on a desert road and a sheriff gets out of the trunk in order to deliver a straight-to-camera disquisition on, and endorsement of, the concept of “no reason”. Suitable set-up for the film’s cheerful rejection of sense: a group of spectators with binoculars have gathered in the desert to watch a “film” – somewhere in the distance, a tire awakens from a junk-heap sleep, achieves self-locomotion and discovers first a will, then a telekinetic ability, to kill. Heads explode.

Both strands of this idea are quite fun: the spectators comment on the action occasionally, a well-delineated group of characters forming an amusing chorus. All but grizzly Wings Hauser are dispensed with half-way through, however, closing down the interesting Pasolinian direction which has them deprived of comfort and food, until a roast turkey causes an outbreak of close-up, sun-flared primitive frenzy. Likewise the spectator/viewed object relationship is played for sly laughs, and this at least continues with Hauser’s intervention in the final scene, moved to suggest an improvement on the course of events. As the master-of-ceremonies, the appealing Stephen Spinella as Sheriff gets the most play with fiction/reality, trying to explain to his confused colleagues that they are in a drama and cheerfully trying to hold the “performance” together ( he also gives a delightful presentation/reading of the inevitable line “Oh God, the kid was right: the killer is a tire”). But the “no reason” aesthetic, delightfully absurdist as it is, ends up limiting rather than freeing the film; the spectator set-up stops short of the head-spinning network of perspectives that it promises to become, and the tire concept, whilst inventively and amusingly employing as many variations as possible on how to film and move a tire, goes only so far before returning to square one, recycled as a tricycle.

Which is not to say there isn’t plenty to enjoy. Known otherwise as techno musician Mr Oizo, Dupieux does a fine job wielding his own camera, favouring a largely successful shallow depth of field and focus-blurring look, and lovingly-detailed sound design does a great deal to sell the central conceit. There’s really a lot of footage of a tire rolling through the sun-drenched desert, and the ending makes too much obvious sense, but there’s a consistent good humour that keeps one indulgent, and two basically good and interesting ideas, well-presented, even if their full potential for insanity remains underdeveloped.

d/sc/ph/ed Quentin Dupieux p Julien Berlan, Gregory Bernard ad Zach Bangma m Gaspard Augé cast Stephen Spinella, Wings Hauser, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Ethan Cohn, Charley Koontz, Daniel Quinn, Hayley Holmes, Haley Ramm
(2010, Fr, 85m)
posted by tom newth at

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