Dir-scr: Quentin Dupieux. US. 2010. 84mins
Who could possibly resist the lure of a movie about a serial killer tyre with lethal telekinetic powers? It sounds like a dream night out for Stephen King. The sheer novelty value of the concept should provide a degree of commercial traction for Rubber even if the deliciously daft premise seems more suited to an eye-catching short than an overextended feature.
Rubber’s originality and winning humour combine to make it one of the guilty pleasures of Cannes 2010.
Quentin Dupieux’s second feature after Steak (2006) is an irreverent throwback to the 1970s heyday of terror by inanimate object as typified by Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971) or The Car (1977). Festivals in search of offbeat, talking-point fare will jump on Rubber and enterprising distributors should be able to exploit its off the wall qualities even if there may be more mileage in ancillary than theatrical.
Dupieux acknowledges and embraces the folly of the film’s central idea with an opening monologue from the local sheriff (Stephen Spinella) explaining that all great films from E.T. to Love Story rely on plot elements that have no logical reason for their existence.
An audience is then assembled to observe and comment on events as a tyre emerges from the California desert sand and starts to wreak havoc on the local wildlife (stomping on a scorpion, exploding a rabbit etc) before turning its attention to the human populace. We never learn what inspires the subsequent killing spree-a traumatic puncture buried in the past or some fatally unbalanced tread perhaps? We will never know.
Dupieux shows that B-movies can be beautiful by capturing and framing desert images that wouldn’t seem out of place in Gus Van Sant’s Gerry. The effects are equally polished with a collection of exploding human heads to satisfy gore fans but more importantly a convincingly independent tyre that books into a motel, showers, settles down to watch television or just keeps rolling inexorably down the highway.
The humour throughout is knowing and self-aware with interruptions from the gathering of viewers and the sheriff that break the spell of the narrative to comment on whether it is living up to expectations or to suggest some alternative plot developments. Stephen Spinella is especially droll in his role as the cynical, tetchy law enforcer who believes that the events are all part of some stage-managed spectacle until the blood and death become very real.
The film starts to fade after the first hour but Dupieux creates an ending that leaves plenty of scope for a more ambitious sequel in the style of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, Rubber’s originality and winning humour combine to make it one of the guilty pleasures of Cannes 2010.
Production company: Realitism Films
International sales: Elle Driver, (33) 1 56 43 48 75
Producers: Gregory Bernard, Julien Berlan
Cinematography-editor: Quentin Dupieux
Music: Mr Oizo (aka Quentin Dupieux), Gaspard Auge
Main cast: Stephen Spinella, Roxanne Mesquida, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser