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Rubber is a 2011 horror comedy directed by Quentin Dupieux. Because I'm having a little bit of trouble finding the words to describe the film's synopsis, I'm going to use the synopsis that the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has given: "When Robert, an inanimate tire, discovers his destructive telepathic powers, he soon sets his sights on a desert town; in particular, a mysterious woman becomes his obsession." I think that sums up the basic plot of the film, but it in no way explains the sophistication of the screenplay. But more on that in a moment.

When you think about this movie, you can only imagine how terrible it could possibly be. I mean, we're essentially made to think that we can sympathize or relate to a tire that rolls around exploding anything that comes in its path. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but that's part of the appeal of the film. In 1971, Steven Spielberg directed a film called Duel that was essentially about a killer semi that chased on commuter all over the highway. That was also far-fetched, but Spielberg's direction was so good that he made the situation completely believable. In the case of Rubber, Dupieux does the same with his tire. Yes, it's a little out there, but you soon find yourself suspending your belief and falling into the vein of the film. So far, so good for the French filmmaker.

However, there's another layer - I guess you could call it a side story? - to this film. On the one side, we have a story of a killer tire that goes around offing everything and everyone it comes into contact with, but we also have a bit of a social tale about watching movies. In a way, Rubber can be called intensely metatheatrical. The side story involves a group of seemingly misplaced individuals stranded in the middle of the desert equipped only with a personal pair of binoculars. Apparently they have all congregated to watch the events of the tire from afar, as though they were watching a film. These characters even have back-and-forth dialogue like one would hear inside a movie theater, complete with arguments over being quiet during the show.

At the same time, the characters who are actually part of the story are privy to the fact that they're putting on a show. At one point during the film, it seems as though their audience has left them, and the characters stop acting and intend to call it quits. It's only when they receive news that a select member of the audience is still watching that they resume their character and the narrative continues. It's theater about theater, and in that regard, I was entirely impressed.

There's another aspect of the film that resonates from the beginning. In the opening shot, we see Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) exit a police cruiser and break the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience. He explains that in every great film, there's a varying degree of "no reason" that is required for a film to function. For example, he cites the reasoning behind why the alien in E.T. was brown, saying that there probably was no reason. He gives a slew of examples, and it sets the stage for the rest of the film, which seems to posit no apparent reason to anything that happens. This idea comes full circle when the remaining member of our "on-screen audience" breaks into the narrative and explains that he doesn't understand the characters' thought process. I personally took the scene as an indictment of modern-day audiences and their need for an explanation to everything in a film. We can go back and forth about our own interpretations of any given film, but the filmmaker ultimately holds the key to that information and will continue to go with that thought process until its logical conclusion, even if the logic only makes sense to them. So within the context of a killing spree, we're basically being told to stop overthinking films. Rather brilliant, if I do say so myself.

I know I'm not really explaining this clearly, and I'm sorry if this review seems a little muddled. Unfortunately for Rubber, it does get a little muddied itself and delves into a little bit of delusion of grandeur. I plan on giving this one another go at some point to see if I can make a little more sense of out it, but until then, it's only bordering on brilliance. However, Rubber could be one of those gems that no one will ever see. At the end of the day, it's not a film for anyone, but those of us film aficionados are probably the target audience. It's a French art film, first and foremost, and should be viewed as one.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: B+
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Addition to Rankings
Best Horror/Thriller - #45

2011, comedy, movie review, Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, Stephen Spinella, and more:

Relevant to: RUBBER + thriller