Certificate: 15
Running time: 82 mins
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Stephen Spinella, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Country: France, Angola, USA

Quentin Dupieux is a director that divides opinion and provokes conversation more than any other working at the moment.  His 2007 feature Steak has critics and fans at war with one another as to whether it’s amazing or awful.  The screening of the trailer for his latest offering, Rubber, brought a stunned silence when played at the festival programme launch for the 2011 Belfast Film Festival.

Robert has the ability of telekinesis and isn’t afraid to use it he’s also a serial killer, fan of step aerobics and is a tire.  The film opens with Lieutenant Chad (Spinella) emerging from the trunk of a car and addresses the camera about the power of cinema and how all excellent film have the “no reason” factor.  Moments later we meet the live audience who are watching the film from within the film and so Dupieux’s usual post nouvelle vague is set in motion.

There are countless films out there that have more than a passing nod to their own fictional existence, Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis is probably one of the most well rounded offerings from this genre, but few that strive so hard to highlight the falsity of film like Rubber.  It does work though, the live audience within the film watching the film give the audience a character to identify with and also deal with a lot of the questions that you would be subjected to having to listen to in the cinema.  Similarly in highlighting the fact that the film isn’t real it only serves to further reinforce that the audience themselves are not actually a real audience which gives way to a deeper reading of the film than you would be expecting from a “horror” film. The director has done a wonderful job in establishing the existence of Robert, his use of cinematography is splendid.  Robert inspecting the plastic bottle is a wonderful little moment early on and the use of the camera gives the audiences imagination everything it needs to construct a face, personality and expressions of our general character.  For all the subversive elements of the film the cinematography is very conservative, which works perfectly with the material.  There are several “iris” shots through the centre of Robert  or over his treads that are classic horror camera work and frames the three levels in the screens depth of field fantastically.

The soundtrack of Mr. Oizo is absolutely brilliant, it has all the flair, originality and effortless cool that you would except from the French techno master.  The beats work well with Robert, highlighting his moments of silliness, vindictiveness and even his adorable side.  It truly does add to the film, the soundtrack is a wonderful addition to the film and a character in its own right.

Stephen Spinella is great, Stephen Spinella is always great.  He’s an actor who is always in the thankless supporting role and it’s nice to see him take the lead in a film that is guaranteed to receive a lot of screenings worldwide.  His presence on screen is one of unsure certainty and is reminiscent of a quirky Rob Scheider.  Like Spinella, Hauser (as the unnamed man in the wheelchair) is fantastic casting on Dupieux’s part.  He’s been working solidly in television for years since his film career slowed but it’s great to see the star of Mutant back on the big screen and stealing every scene he’s in. 

The problem lies in what makes Rubber so different.  It’s an incredibly smart and interesting piece of contemporary cinema and one that will most certainly give rise to several in depth readings.  The film, unfortunately, knows how smart it is and director Dupieux goes to lengths to highlight just how intelligent his “horror” film is, how different it is to other films in the genre and in doing so erodes any love felt for the film.  Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays are always exceptionally smart, the difference between Kaufman and Dupieux is that Kaufman’s work has a degree of humility that’s endearing to an audience.   Rubber doesn’t have this, it’s overly aware of how smart it is and in being so distances itself from the audience.  The film’s intelligence is the star of the show, unfortunately relegating all the performers and narrative to supporting roles.

When creating a film this different there are elements of the genre that you have to include in order to highlight where the film differs from the genre and Rubber simply doesn’t have enough of the horror genre trademarks to match the audiences expectations.  The trailer for the film is much better than the film, it portrays a more conventional narrative with the “no reason” quality that the film attempts to grasp but it really doesn’t have these.  There’s more than enough brain but not enough brawn to make Rubber a cool a film as the ones which Spinella lists at the beginning, which is a shame.  Truly enjoyable but not for the reasons that stopped all conversation on the BFF’s launch day.


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