In Which Sentient Tires Blow Things Up for No Reason

03/30/2011 4:00 AM |

Rubber
Directed by Quentin Dupieux

Not unlike some bacon-wrapped date, Rubber flawlessly incorporates opposing tastes with its gorgeously photographed opening salvo: a cop car slowly crawls down a dirt road, sideswiping a line of wooden folding chairs. After toppling the last chair, the cop exits and delivers a speech directly to the camera about how in movies, as in life, so much of what is, is that way for no reason. But rather than descending into nihilism, it’s clear Rubber will celebrate the unified field as the list of examples quickly slide into absurdity: “Why was E.T. brown? No reason… Why did a perfectly talented pianist like Adrian Brody hide in a dumpy apartment for years? No reason!” As the cop drives off, the camera pans to reveal a group of people with binoculars who stare impatiently into the surrounding desert. For a while we watch them, and then we are treated to what they are trying to view, though not as they see it: a tire. Inexplicably, it picks itself up, and, like a drunk or a child, wobblingly rolls through the scrub, occasionally falling. Eventually it bumps into a discarded beer bottle, and, with a power as inexplicably as its sentience, explodes the empty with its mind It then goes on to explode a tarantula, a crow, and a man’s head. The formula-malevolent semi-consciousness, dusty signposts of Americana, explosions-remains amusingly absurd throughout. Or will, at least, for those connoisseurs of the Adult Swim-style comedy of bludgeoning repetition. (There’s no such thing as guilty pleasures, just pleasure, people!) In between each paroxysm of tire-fury are moments of expansive silence, which exists somewhere between Kiarostamian meditation on landscape and pregnant pause.

While all this is going on, the audiences showcase a range of impulses — to anthropomorphize and gender the tire; to shush their fellow-viewers’ commentary and insist upon silence; the one guy who tries to videotape it for his wife — in short, things you may very well be doing as you watch it. Preoccupied with getting their money’s worth (and what they want out of the viewing experience), they fail to notice the nonexistent physical boundary between their world and that of “the story” or their suspicious viewing conditions, with fatal consequences. These layers transform Rubber from complete waste of time to more nuanced medium-fuckery, a la Week-end. The lead cop’s consistent breaking of the fourth wall (which occurs because he’s lazy and wants to go home) also seems to beg this comparison, sans solemn self-importance. Rubber may not be everyone’s comedic go-to, but certainly it’s a sui generis indie that doesn’t portend to be anything more than its 86 minutes — except, of course, for the sweetly brilliant Kraftwerk-influenced score, composed and produced by the director himself.

Opens April 1