Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rubber (2010)

One tire to rule them all!

This is an ambitious project that could have been one thing but decided to be multiple. It's a film that balances theory and entertainment. The former is going to put some viewer's off, but in both respects it's going to still produce some debate in whether someone thinks it's warranted or too basic and unoriginal. It starts out as a movie within a movie with the "audience" represented by spectators with binoculars and a member of the cast explaining that things in cinema often imitate life by happening for no reason. The irony is that part of what he's saying happened for a reason--yet that's all a matter of perspective, which is supposed to be the film's sublime message since so many other movies spoon feed their viewers. Truth is stranger than fiction, right? Well, maybe not so much here.

"Rubber" isn't a health conscious XXX film but rather a picture about a possessed tire that plays out like a dryly humorous horror tale with a slice of adventure. It's almost as if it was penned by another pseudonym of Stephen King with inanimate objects that move about and have psychic powers. Like King, the mundane is taken with a bit of refined thought with its own rules and special powers. The funniest aspect is it has actual character development before it sees the world despite being a basic, ordinary tire in look. It rises from the sand strewn landscape and rolls about with a curious mind of its own. Like a serial killer, it graduates up to greater threats, such as a crushed water bottle, leading to a dead scorpion, leading to a beer bottle destroyed by supernatural powers. It roams about and gets tired just like the rest of us. Our stock spectators are periodically shown with comments and complaints about what's going on as well as puns to other films.

If anything can be learned about what not to do in possession films, it's "Maximum Overdrive," with some lame excuse for what's going on and the laziest scientific reasoning behind it as if its research dodged the library and went on pure speculation. "Rubber" doesn't explain how or where it came from, but it still has plenty of basic motivations and behaviors outlined, such as forming a love interest with a young brunette, watching TV, strolling about and indiscriminately exploding peoples' heads like "Scanners" gone wild. It's such an odd premise that any context it finds itself in seems to be humorous. It's almost cartoonish at points, which makes me believe this could have been a hit series on Cartoon Network for adults with short episodes to keep the novelty going. That's probably another reason for including other aspects here since its gimmick might have worn thin otherwise. The film spends a share of time on its aesthetics with style and mood. Its lead, even though it's supposed to be an inanimate object, ends up being this oddly cool antihero with his certain ways, a distinctive roll (gait) and hip music to follow.

There are a share of shots of the surroundings to development an atmosphere. The camera angles are often very explicit about what they want you to focus on, and if you don't you'll often see a blurry background like taking off your glasses in a 3D film. It takes awhile to get used to as something can be framed up in the center yet what's around it is clear instead. It plays on some horror jokes with close-up creeping shots almost out of "Jaws," as well as a young kid that no adult believes. This is a little too unhurried at points with not much in the way of significance going on at points but it does leave some room to think about what you're viewing and also to maintain a level of intrigue to see what happens next. It plays around a little too long with its concept by showing misadventures rather than a narrative story. That seems to simultaneously help it and hold it back when not much is going on but just giving a presence or aura. Like you're just hangin' loose with it.

"Rubber" has a lot of potential and produces some fun times. The biggest let down is how its replay value becomes diminished when it tries to move from being an odd genre mesh that's off on its own, to giving a message heavy satire on Hollywood films while using an absurd plot and easy time to make you go along with that notion. It's riding a fine line between poking fun and having an ulterior motive. It's odd considering that if you caught it, you're already capable of thinking on your own anyway. So why the reminder and pat on the back? Not to mention each time you put this on you might be reminded and if something miraculously does a turn around over there in Tinseltown, this will look short sighted. If you didn't, then hopefully you at least had an amusing time and were able to interpret it in your own way. It's a film that doesn't worry about its critiques. That prior mentioned aspect might have bothered myself. Though others might be put off by its areas of contradictions in plot or ideology, slowness or lack of hitting your particular funny bone. And guess what? All of those people would be right in a way, because it's a certain type of film that takes a certain type of person to appreciate it. Then on the other hand, it takes a certain type of person to hate it as well. What's interesting here is that they equally balanced both their adorers and disqualifiers in the same film. Most movies do that by accident, though this is going to be a lot more self-aware, which even that itself can make one put up crossed arms.

One could say the film does the same things that it points out other movies as not doing, which makes it okay, right? I guess that will be up to you. "Rubber" often plays both sides of the fence and you can't always tell what side it's really on. Possibly neither; possibly both equally; possibly one side and using the other as a guise. It exercises with contradiction and its diet consists of irony. It can have both a reason and not a reason for doing something. It can be both artful and fluff. Exciting and dull. Original and unoriginal. Pretentious and simple. I have to say it was a neat idea with its share of ambitions with a goal in mind to set up a kind of ambiguity. To do that it often spoke its limitations through its mock spectators, even if that self-degradation doesn't exactly excuse everything, but it still leaves enough lingering about to have an amusing time during and then a productive discussion/debate afterwards.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Quentin Dupieux (Steak)
Stars: Stephen Spinella, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida
Link: IMDB

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