You were probably unaware of the latest in absurdist horror comedy from French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux, “Rubber.” I was unaware the absurdist genre even existed. If, like me, were unaware of this ridiculous genre, but you saw the “Rubber” trailer and thought the premise of a tire that comes to life and starts telekinetically killing people was just ridiculous enough to make for a fun film, let me save you your time and money. Nearly every funny moment in this 82-minute film is captured in its trailer. But the rubber meets the road on the silver screen, and this one dies a horrible death about 10 minutes in.
At the beginning of the film, a sheriff (Stephen Spinella) climbs out of his squad car’s trunk, then addresses the audience. “In the Stephen Spielberg film ET,” he begins, “why was ET brown?” After a second, he says, “No reason.” He continues, asking why in “Love Story,” two characters fell in love. Again, “No reason.” His statements expand in their hilarious absurdity until he states that Jewish concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman in “The Pianist” was hiding during World War II for “no reason.” Of course there was a reason! He was Jewish! It’s just absurd enough to be funny.
Then Dupieux, through the sheriff, drops the film’s “great revelation” on us. “All great films without exception contain a great element of no reason.” Why? “Because life itself contains a great element of no reason.” This film, he says, is an homage to that “no reason.”
This film is clearly an homage to no reason. It’s also a reasonless homage created for no reason. Of course, absurdity has its place in film. But there is simply no reason why it should have an entire feature. Obviously in the aforementioned films, with the exception of ET’s color, the supposedly reasonless element is fundamental to the film’s story. So if this film is a tribute to all of the very reasonable “no reasons” in film, then “Rubber” should be at least somewhat reasonable in its absurd tribute. While it is absurd, it’s not a tribute to anything fundamental in film, and it is hardly reasonable.
The story is disjointed and makes no sense. Aside from Robert the tire’s storyline, there’s an “audience” watching Robert’s story unfold through binoculars, seeing it as a film. Characters between these two stories interact, and at no point is it entirely clear what the relationship between the “audience” and the “characters” truly is. Further, Dupieux takes his absurdity to the extreme by focusing on boring scenes where little happens, then skipping entire days of tire-ific mayhem.
There’s some good camerawork here, but there’s always that underlying understanding that what the camera is focusing on in such a loving, artistic way is a tire. Even the tributes to other films – like a mirror scene where Robert sees himself and reflects via montage on what he’s been up to over the last day. But these semi-serious tributes to overused and reasonless elements in film are too serious to be funny.
One of the audience members in the film greedily watches the boredom of Robert’s story, hungrily waiting for some excitement. He mumbles, “I want my show. Yes sir, I want my show.” I could relate. But “Rubber” was never going to satisfy my desire for a good show, and the audience members I saw it with agreed. A handful of people watching with me realized that about ten minutes into the film, and walked out.