19 February 2011
The first thirty or forty minutes of Rubber are exciting and energizing. Rarely has something been so pointedly unpredictable and self-aware without feeling overcooked or pretentious. Forgive me for taking the high-minded (read: totally pretentious) road here, but: on the one hand it was a skillful characterization of an inert, characterless object that said a lot about the nature of narratives and protagonists; and on the other hand it was a self-conscious anti-story deconstruction of everything the genre movie (and especially the exploitationy slasher film) means to be. For all of act one and the beginning of act two, this was something I'd never seen before, and it was fun, and funny, and exciting, and meta, and thoughtful, and strongly deconstructionist. It hit my high-brow and low-brow sides just right. But only for the first thirty or forty minutes.
Not that after that it's a disaster. I'm still glad I saw it. It's just that, once we've got the many conceits that get us into act two rolling, we don't really get any more flashes of brilliance. Instead we just ride the waves caused by those initial ripples for another forty or so minutes. It's still fun in bursts, and clever at times, but it loses its newness and its oddness. It may be strange to call the story of a psychokinetic murderous living tire rampaging through a slightly self-aware movie world monotonous, but there you have it. Once things get up to speed we never really change gears, and for that reason we kind of lose steam before the end (mixaphorically speaking). The end itself, of course, is the same unexpected and untelegraphed anti-end that you'd expect from something trying so deliberately to be an anti-story. It lacks resolution and satisfaction, pointedly, and I can live with that. But getting there should have had more of the original twists and turns that carried every minute of the first act forward.
I knew going in that Mr. Oizo had done the music for this, but I did not know, to be honest, that writer/director Quentin Dupieux was Mr. Oizo. In retrospect, that should have been obvious. On the one hand it seems very Spike Jonze (and Jack Plotnik, who plays the "Accountant," even looks like Spike Jonze in character) but more than that the way the personification of the tire is handled -- deadpan, casual, tragicomic -- reminds me somehow of the Mr. Oizo music videos, which were of course also directed by Dupieux himself.
Definitely glad I saw this, but it starts with a premise so bold and strong and unusual and novel that it's almost impossible to follow through, so it's not one I'm going to rush out to see again or rave to my friends about.
Seen at the Hollywood Theater as part of the Portland International Film Festival.