Not since “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” has the silver screen been graced by a killer commonplace object. “Rubber” is the story of a telekinetic killer tire named Robert whom finds himself fascinated with a mysterious brunette named Sheila (sheʼs billed as Sheila but I donʼt think her name is ever spoken). The same goes for Robert. Even though the tire is billed as Robert, no one ever says “Oh no, run! Itʼs Robert!”
So this filmʼs about a tire that one day stands up on its own and goes on a killing spree? Thatʼs pretty straight forward. Whoa, pump the breaks. Even though this film is promoted as the “killer tire movie” it has a lot more going on for itʼs 80 minute runtime. The film opens up with a monologue by “Lieutenant Chad” stating that this film is a homage to “no reason.” This may have been a brilliant move on the filmmakersʼ part for it offsets any argument demanding rational.
As Robert journeys across the desert landscape a good chunk of the film showcases an audience watching Robertʼs actions. They are not in a theater but are standing in the desert watching the film through a pair of binoculars. They discuss Robertʼs actions and debate where the film is headed as they slowly starve to death. They canʼt leave until the film is over. Since the movie takes place over a few days, they sleep in the desert to see what happens the next day. Iʼm not sure how or why anyone would sign up for this.
Quentin Dupieux directed this film along with being the cinematographer, composer, camera operator, editor, and writer. Thatʼs a lot of hats for one person and even with all that divided attention the movie is a gorgeous thing to look at. There are beautiful sequences of Robert rolling across the desert, and some of Robertʼs actions will have you wondering what avant-garde film tricks made it possible. But for every technical achievement “Rubber” has, it hurts itself in its story telling.
The film flows more like a college experiment rather than a limited released underground hit. Some scenes run on until the initial impact of its obscurity are no longer present. Thereʼs a scene where “Lieutenant Chad” is attempting to lure the tire out of a house by using a mannequin strapped with dynamite. You could leave the room for four minutes and come back without missing a beat.
This film is also very self aware. At one point “Lieutenant Chad” believes that the audience in the desert is dead and attempts to end the movie. He tells everyone around him the movie is over and they are all actors. No one else understands this concept, but Chad pushes his point by having another officer shoot him. He doesnʼt die because the blood is just a makeup effect. Then he finds out that the audience isnʼt dead and he goes back to “acting.”
“Lietenant Chad”, played by Stephen Spinella, carries this film. His character may be the only character in film history where heʼs aware heʼs in a movie and is desperately trying to end it. He becomes so frustrated with the filmʼs continuation that he plans to poison the audience. As for Rubberʼs female lead, Shelia played by Roxane Mesquida, sheʼs more of a mysterious plot device than a character. She has an accent and she seems to be traveling. Thatʼs about all that is revealed about her and thatʼs all it takes for a conscious tire to follow her around.
As weird and silly as this film is, it does succeed in providing a story arch for a tire. To be able to evoke emotions from an everyday piece of rubber is fairly impressive.
Why is Robert magnetized to murder? Iʼm not really sure, but he does have emotions, and thatʼs a one of the few prerequisite for murder. If youʼre watching Rubber for a killer tire movie you may not get what youʼre looking for. If youʼre watching Rubber for a nonsensical conversation piece, then look no further.