Toronto After Dark 2010: Rubber

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Anyone expecting a conventional horror or comedy film will be disappointed.


Dir. Quentin Dupieux (2010, France, 85 mins.)

Quentin Dupieux has brought us one of the year’s most interesting, intelligent, and worthwhile films. To say that Rubber is about a sentient, psychokinetic, murderous tire would be accurate, but would also miss the point. This film defies easy explanation and does not fit neatly into any genre, though a number have been offered: horror, black comedy, experimental – all fall short. If pressed for a definition, I might call Rubber a post-modern parody of a horror film. Alternatively, I could tell you to abandon any preconceived notions you have and give this film a chance – it is a risk well worth taking.

Rubber has two audiences. The first are comprised of people literally sitting in the theatre. The second are onscreen characters that are comparable to a chorus from ancient Greek tragedy. Both are addressed at the beginning of the film by a sheriff’s deputy, who emerges from the trunk of a car to pose several questions about famous movies: Why is ET brown? Why is JFK killed by a man he does not know? Why is a famous pianist forced to hide and act like a homeless man? We are told the answer: no reason. The deputy goes on to tell us that this is a film about ‘no reason,’ before he departs to be a character in the film. The onscreen audience take up their binoculars and begin to watch as a tire comes to life. Before long, the tire is psychokinetically exploding heads, following girls, and watching television.

Obviously, anyone expecting a conventional horror or comedy film will be disappointed. There is no suspense. There is no terror. There are no gags. There are no punch lines. People expecting that sort of thing are in the onscreen audience, and those people are poisoned halfway through the film, presumably by the filmmaker. It won’t matter that I told you that, and you will probably celebrate their deaths.

Though Rubber is fairly unconventional by film standards, it displays obvious influence from the theatre of the absurd; it is reminiscent of The Bald Soprano, Waiting for Godot, and Amédée, or How to Get Rid of It. If you were to expect anything walking into this film, it would be best to expect a measure of absurdism. Expecting anything else will lead to disappointment.

– Dave Robson

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