Film review: Quentin Dupieux’s ‘Rubber’


Quentin Dupieux’s movie Rubber abundantly demonstrates that with enough wit, imagination and verve you can still make a funny and intriguing feature film without the aid of a budget that could float an impoverished third world country.  In fact, the sardonic Rubber probably cost less than the crew coffee budget on the vacant Sucker Punch.

The film opens with policeman Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) apparently delivering a monologue direct to camera about the joys of cinema of “no reason.” In fact he is conveying his musings upon celluloid to an audience of cinema tourists who have travelled to the desert to watch the film unfold through binoculars ”“ a crazed Greek chorus/ self-reflexive Brechtian alienation device, featuring among their number a couple of movie buffs and the great B-movie veteran Mr. Wings Hauser as a Man in a Wheelchair.
In the middle of an American desert region, a tire, named Robert, suddenly comes to life.  Using strange and other worldly psychic powers it moves itself into an upright position and begins to roll across the countryside. This is definitely no ordinary tire. The mute Robert likes to squash things that get in his way; a bug, an empty plastic water bottle.  When the tire encounters an object it cannot grind down, it discovers it has a tremendously powerful telepathic ability to produce psychic energy waves that will explode inanimate objects and living creatures, such as cute bunny rabbits and crows.  Robert clearly takes great pleasure in doing this. Then the tire becomes infatuated with a beautiful dark haired women named Sheila, (the talented muse of French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, Roxane Mesquida), who just happens to be driving through the desert.  Robert comprehends that his love could never be fulfilled so he swiftly embarks upon an ever rolling bloody homicidal rampage, exploding the heads of numerous unfortunate human beings (in a very similar style to David Cronenberg’s 1981 classic Scanners) who get in his way.  The police take up pursuit. Stephen Spinella should win an Academy Award (trademark) for the look he proffers when a fellow gormless cop asks him if the killer tire is black.
With an inventive score by Gaspard Auge and Mr Oizo (French electro house musician Quentin Dupieux’s stage name), cinematographer, writer, director Dupieux manages to blend a full-blown trashy B-movie horror flick with an absurdist ”˜art’ movie. The “No reason” cinematic philosophy lecture is obviously a front, and Rubber delivers an amusing critique of narrative cinema, an audience’s point of identification (in this case, a tire) and the nature of existence (well, maybe). Spinella and Mesquida play it suitably straight, Wings Hauser is excellent (particularly when offering Spinella and Mesquida a long address on why a particular scene is not working for him), but it is ”˜Robert’ who obviously steals the picture with a stunning non-CGI performance, which rolls over anything De Niro has offered up in the past ten years. When Robert watches a huge bile of fellow rubber tires being burnt at a rubbish dump, we feel his pain. No mean feat for a tire.  That Quentin Dupieux manages to hold our attention for much of Rubber’s running time is commendable too.
The ending is fairly open ended, so Son of Rubber could be a real possibility.  If you don’t like it you better make tracks, because Rubber is coming for you.
Rubber: 79 mins  Cert: 15
Rubber is being screened at
Celluloid Screams presents @ Sheffield Showroom Cinema
Tuesday 5th April 2011

Midnight Movies and Culture Shock present @ The Ritzy, Brixton, Friday 8th April 2011
 Rubber is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and EST 11th April 2011


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