(Magnet Releasing) Movies about movies can sometimes be interesting movies. That's kind of a lazy thing to say, though, because any movie about anything can sometimes be interesting, even if the movie isn't about movies. But I don't know if I've ever seen a movie about movies the way the movie Rubber is about them. Rubber is like a well-planned, meticulously realized mistake, in that, on the surface, it indeed has no reason to exist. It is the the dream of a six-year-old in a sandbox--an ill-conceived bit of imagination meant to last for six minutes on a playground or a few REMs in a dream. Rubber is not a movie about condoms and safe sex. It's not even about my hometown of Akron, Ohio--the one-time rubber capital of the world before industry went bye-bye. Rubber doesn't have any such political or socio-economic statements to make. Stay with me now, because you will never hear something like this again.
Rubber is a movie about a tire. A tire that comes to life. A tire that comes to life and realizes it has psychic capabilities. Capabilities that allow it to blow up bunnies, beer bottles, and human beings at will. And it does. The tire doesn't speak. It ain't cute. It ain't animated. This ain't Pixar. Rubber is the vision of a French madman who calls himself Mr. Oizo and is known mostly for laying down electro house music. Call him Quentin Dupieux (his real name, I think) and you've got a with a whacked-out vision that could probably only be attributed to some kind of Euro-electronica rocker. So it makes sense.
Let me tell you what happens, first of all, when you go to a screening like this one for a movie you've never heard of before with a concept you can't believe could be true. A movie about a tire!!! At the screening, people give you beer and chicken. PBR and KFC. Even without an income, you feel blessed for being in LA. Clearly it could be called a ruse to buy over the critics, but it'll take more than coleslaw and Coors for me to sell my soul. Hear me, Hollywood?! Anyway, mainly it was just an awesome way to set up a grindhouse setting for a movie that most surely had to be grindhouse. How could it be anything else? How could it be smart?
But it was. The movie opens with a series of images you wouldn't expect. A bunch of empty chairs in the middle of the desert. A man holding over a dozen pairs of binoculars. A car that pulls up and crushes the chairs, only to release a police officer from its trunk. The first thing that guy does is walk up to the camera, break the fourth wall, and smack the audience across the face. Maybe I was wrong when I said this was a movie about movies. It's a movie about audiences.
Is Rubber smart? Well, smarter than anyone could have anticipated. On the surface, it is a ridiculous grindhouse piece about exactly what was described: a tire that blows stuff up. But on the edges, it's about the rules movies abide by and the expectations audiences apply to them. What that cop tells us in the funny, engaging, and wtf-able opening moments is that no movie ever has ever made total sense. Movies operate on suspension of disbelief--some more than others, but even the most realistic of dramas will have a "get"--a place where we the audience are asked to look the other way so the movie can exist on its own. When these "gets" get to be too many, that's when a movie goes sour--when a "get" is too big to be given is when we start calling it a plot hole. But movies like Batman Begins and the The Dark Knight dazzle us because they took a concept that we assumed we'd have to give a lot of leeway in terms of reality--a crime-fighting dude named Batman who fought homicidal clowns and Picasso-ed gangsters--and made him damn real--camp and goofiness be gone. The more a movie can get us to accept it on its terms, the more we enjoy it; the more a movie can make sense to us--the more outrageous concept it presents, like the The Matrix--the more we admire it.
Think about it, even a straightforward movie like The Social Network has its "gets." We know instinctively that the Mark Zuckerberg we're presented can't be an exact replica of the Zuckerberg that gave us Facebook, and we know overtly that not everyone in his life had that snappy and smart of dialogue...but we don't want the real story, do we? We want the mood Social Network built--the mirror it held to ourselves and our recent history which, to us, is the more important truth. Not if Sean Parker ever said, "You know what's cooler than a million dollars? A billion dollars."
You know what's cooler than a movie about a tire that goes around and blows things up? A movie about why we'd watch a movie about a tire that goes around and blows things up. But to be fair, I can't completely say that's true. Because Rubber has things to say, it's not as fun as the fried chicken, beer, and posters would have lead me to believe. I was duped! I had to think. Some of that was refreshing, and for any movie buff, it will be interesting. I mean, the movie literally follows the comments and journey of a live audience that is following and watching the tire, but it can start to get exhausting. There is something that wears on you debating art and story to no end when the factories are closing down and there are socio-political matters at hand. A movie like Rubber has its place at the grindhouse theater, but Rubber is stuck between two. Stuck between the Cannes Film Festival (where it was shown to welcoming audiences) and bad movie nights at colleges 'round the country. It's a movie that dares to be smart by being dumb. And that's a little trippy. The cop in the trunk asks us right off, "In Spielberg's E.T., why is the alien brown?" We never knew, we never cared--we were engaged. That alien made bikes fly set against the moon! In Rubber, why does the tire come to life? How does it kill? Why is there this live audience? We're dared not to ask, to play along; but without being entertained, the questions, as they do with any movie, become too great.
See Rubber. Really. Especially if you're a film fan. If you're film fan, like Sci-Fi movie-of-the-week film fan, watch Rubber too, for all those explosions and rabbits and such. It'll ultimately make you think about how entertainment entertains. But it'll still have the problem of being a movie that doesn't let the film buff escape or the trashy movie fan enjoy. What can I say? It's an ambitious movie about a tire, and it's French. But even for its flaws, it deserves to be seen. And that's not the chicken talking.
The flick will find its way into theaters April 1, 2011. Check out a featurette and trailer here.