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Damning with Faint Praise: RUBBER

Somewhere in the American desert, a tire named Robert comes to life. It makes its first wobbling attempts to move across the landscape.

Gaining confidence, it crushes a box. Then struggles with a bottle. A crow stares at it, and the tire discovers that it can destroy things with its mind.

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

While an unnamed audience watches through binoculars, the tire encounters humans.

And then the real killing starts.

I never thought I would call a movie about a tire poignant and interesting, but Rubber is both those things.

Does the very concept of Rubber seem ridiculous to you?

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

The film addresses that in the opening. Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella), a police officer, explains that Rubber is “an homage to the no reason – that most powerful element of style.” Once you accept that, the movie flows smoothly.

Quentin Dupieux wrote and directed this, his third film. He does an excellent job of establishing Robert, the tire, as a character.

We watch Robert’s “birth” from the desert sand. We watch his wobbling first “steps.”

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

Dupieux clearly establishes that this is a new life, experiencing the world for the first time, and simultaneously testing itself and discovering its strength.

We don’t know why or how Robert came to life, but Dupieux’s camera and sound work bring us into the moment.

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

As Robert moves along, we realize that he has an audience. The audience serves as a meta filter for the movie, asking the kinds of questions that we, as the movie audience, might also ask.

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

I found it chilling when we realized that the audience was trapped in the desert without food, water, or shelter. As the audience’s story moved along, I realized that Dupieux was commenting on how observing violence affects us.

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

It’s hard to tell when a movie is challenging or poorly written.

Overall, I tend to think that Rubber purposely leaves questions unanswered. Who is torturing the audience? Is that somehow related to Robert’s birth? Why is Robert obsessed with that woman (Roxane Mesquida) in particular?

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

It’s not that the context or the conflict is hard to understand. In broad strokes, they are very clear. Only a few details are left to the audience imagination. Then again, maybe they’re part of the no reason.

An off-beat horror story that’s well-worth your time.

Quentin Dupieux, Rubber, cult cinema

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