Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rubber - Digital Download Review

Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2011

What if David Lynch made Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Think about that for a second...what if one of the most off the charts strange and well regarded directors of our time helmed one of the weirdest and sublimely simple horror comedies of all time? The answer to that question can be summed up with one simple word...Rubber.

Review Vital Stats:
Service: Xbox Zune Marketplace
Download Type: Rental
Picture Quality: HD

Loves: Originality, tires
Likes: Being challenged by a film
Neutral: A film giving itself an out for making no sense
Hates: David Lynch
Yes: The tire's name is Robert

I have come to the conclusion that no matter what I write here I don't think I will ever be able to truly get across what a sensational and original piece of work Quentin Dupieux has created with Rubber. When i initially saw the press releases for its exsistence I thought it was some sort of joke movie. Maybe something some self-proclaimed clever person put together in hopes of getting attention from such an apparent idiotic idea. Then I saw the trailer in which we see a tire roll around the desert killing things with some sort of telekinetic powers. At first I was still skeptical of whether or not it was real, maybe it was a short film from a film school student. Then after a few more viewings I began to take notice of the actual presentation at hand. It was filmed compentently (for a trailer anyway) and seemed to have a sense of humor about itself. Little did I know what was actually awaiting me when I sat down and pressed that play button.

Instead of my usual synopsis I think I will just explain the opening few moments of the film. We start on what a appears to be a random dirt road in the desert. The road has multiple wooden chairs scattered about it all standing upright and spaced evenly between each other. We then see a nerdy looking business man standing along side that road as a car comes into frame in the distance. The car begins to swerve and bump into each and every chair it comes across while going a modest speed. It pulls up next to the business man and out pops a man dressed as a police officer from the trunk of the car. He walks up to the camera and begins to speak directly to us, "In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown?...no reason. In the excellent Texas Chainsaw Massacre by Tobe Hooper, why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom?...no reason." He continues on with examples of situations in films and in life itself that defy explanation, things that were never explained, things that can't be explained. Soon after that opening monologue we see a random tire come to life in the middle of the desert. Why?...no reason.

Robert comes to life from the Earth just like all of us.

If the previous paragraph bothers you and you are wondering what the hell does any of that have to do with a killer tire then you might not care too much for Rubber. This film can either be a revelation to those that are sick of the same old crap we are spoon fed from Hollywood all the time or it can be an exercise in frustration. This is not a straight forward film, there are many different ideas at work here. Yes, it has a killer tire but that is more or less secondary to everything else going on. If you find yourself intrigued enough by this point then I suggest checking it out immediately.

Now, I am no expert when it comes to philosophical meanings in films. I can catch on pretty quick and consider myself to be fairly sharp at locating any hidden messages buried deep within the confines of a deceptively simple idea. I bring that up because even though I couldn't exactly put my finger on it I got the sense that director Quentin Dupieux had something he was trying to say here. There have been many directors over the years that have used film to examine the strangeness of our world or the world as we perceive it. Not all of them are successful, as a matter of fact most of them end in failure. The ironic aspect of those failures though are that they usually see some sort of success due to them failing. Let me explain myself a little better for you.

Robert must have been breaking the speed limit.

Ed Wood, was he a genius or just a bad filmmaker? Perhaps his inadequacies behind the camera made him a genius or it could be that his films were just plain bad and were adopted by people hungry for something different. The one man that has constantly brought the world of bizarre to its knees and receive critical acclaim for it has to be David Lynch though. Abstract is almost too normal a word to describe most of his work. I am not a fan of his, I actually believe that his films try TOO hard to be different and often make no sense beyond the point of being competent. I bring up these two directors as examples because Rubber reminds me a lot of their collected works. I suppose the real trick to what Dupieux has done here is that unlike Wood he has made a good film and unlike Lynch he has made a strange concoction of many different ideas that make some sort of sense by the end...but not complete sense.

In order for me to go any further I have to go into more depth with the film and all its complexities. These wouldn't normally be considered spoilers but with this film I think knowing anything about it before seeing it may in fact ruin the experience. I saw the trailer and even though it was mercifully vacant of revealing anything important I still would have liked to go into it with a blank slate. That being said though, I suggest that if you wish to watch the film and discover all it's mysteries on your own then please by all means skip this next section entirely and just watch the dam thing. Once you have done that then I gladly invite you back to pick up from this point. But enough digressing, let's get into the meat of this...er, tire.

Robert is feeling TIRE-D and needs some rest.

The one aspect that is completely hidden in that trailer are what the film calls the observers. They are a collection of all sorts of demographics, fathers, mothers, kids, teenagers, and even one older gentleman in a wheelchair. They are given binoculars out in the middle of the desert and instructed to look through them to see what is currently happening with the tire. The way these observers are set up at the beginning of the film it is more than evident that they are meant to reflect us, the audience, as we watch what happens as well. They often make comments about what we are seeing, one of them asks if a tire can float which spurs on a conversation amongst them. But nobody likes it when people talk during the movie so some other people promptly tell them to be quiet and just watch.

This whole story with these observers is a strange sort of brilliance on the directors part. It isn't anything exactly new with a filmmaker speaking directly to the audience but I can't think of any film in recent memory where there was a visual representation OF the audience themselves. Many of the reactions they were having or questions they have were similiar to my own which was funny and odd at the same time. And this whole angle of the films plot is combined with a self-awareness on the part of the main police officer (who gave the opening monologue to us) whom is an actual character in the story involving the killer tire. While he is in the field so to speak he plays the part of the local sheriff but he is doing it like he is acting a part. He never winks or makes any knowing glances towards the camera though. The only time he breaks character is when he believes that the observers have all died and it is time to stop the movie.

Why is he all shot up and still alive?...no reason.

Which leads me into what is probably one of my favorite parts of the film and also the one area where I think the divide between those who like it and those who loathe it will form. About midway through the story it segues into the story arc involving the observers and makes that the main plot from that point forward. The killer tire is most certainly still present but it almost becomes secondary to what is happening with the observers. Anyone that came into this film looking for some killer tire action (yes, that sounds ridiculous even as I type it) will most assuredly come away disappointed by the end. And I can't say I would blame them because the entire observer subplot has a ton of hidden meanings and messages to it that your average everyday moviegoer is most likely to have go right over their heads. They came to see a tire make people's heads explode dam it, not something that explores the nature of why we want to watch films about a tire that makes people's heads explode.

On the other hand if you have the same reaction as I did and find the idea behind the observers to be a fascinating one then you will not only be OK with the killer tire plot becoming the new subplot but you might even love it more because of that. Even now I am still trying to figure out exactly what was trying to be said with the whole observer thing. What was the meaning behind having them murdered? Why was the movie going to end and everyone was going to go home because of their demise? Why was only the one police officer aware that he was in a fake world? And most of all why were they so upset to find out that they still had observers watching them? Was this supposed to be a statement about movies being there to entertain us and that maybe the people playing in them get annoyed by the audience? Perhaps it was a statement from the director himself saying that what we crave in our films is just preposterous, the fact that we actually WANT to watch a movie about a tire that kills people, take it seriously and how utterly stupid that is. I am not sure what or even if there are answers to these questions but I fully appreciate the fact that the film gave me that much to think about.

Robert is about to have his ego inflated.

The film did still have some issues for me though such as how much of a mess its structure is. It all starts out fairly focused as we follow the tire from birth to death but when certain subplots pop up and are dropped it was irritating. When the tire becomes infatuated with this random woman that drives by him on the road and he begins to stalk her, that goes nowhere. After he holds up in a motel room right next to hers, follows her to the pool and finally takes a dip in the pool that whole storyline is ditched. Sure she shows up at the end during the mannequin scene but it didn't make any sense as to why she was there because she never realized the tire was even interested in her in the first place. There is a kid running the motel with his father that starts to notice the tire and tries to warn people that it is alive and killing people but he vanishes by the halfway point. And that is due to the mid-film jump point where it skips ahead three days. I understand why they did it (by that point the observers were more of the focal point) but so much happened off screen that we missed which was kind of a let down.

I went into this film expecting something along the lines of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and came out of it talking about David Lynch...who would have guessed. I can't feel but impressed that a film about a killer tire actually had a message to its story, that it even asked me to keep my brain turned on and use it throughout its entire length. If someone had asked me before seeing it what I thought I was going to get from it I would have said a campy B-style horror movie involving a tire. Now when someone asks me what I did get from it I would have to tell them a thought provoking and insightful look at why our world is made up of so many unexplained things and how we as participating audience members are strange creatures when it comes to what we actually want from a movie about a killer tire. And if anyone asks me why I even wanted to see it in the first place I will just simply tell them...no reason.



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