Rubber

Doofus ex Machina


Girls are stupid. I hate them.
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Reported on 6th of June, 2011

Girls are stupid. I hate them. I do my best, as you know, to see as many movies as I can in the theater. This makes for a very short Netflix queue (our version is called, rather unfortunately, Lovefilm), as generally if I haven’t seen it, it’s unlikely that I don’t want to, and I want to see everything, so I have seen it.

Moving to the UK, there were bound to be limitations, as some movies just don’t come here. I’ve come to avoid looking at American movie sites, as the kind of movies I like to see (baffling FX laden mistakes, anything made by Mr. Peter Hyams, exorcist prequels – basically, films that are postponed, tested, reshot, postponed, tested, reshot, postponed, tested, reshot and then finally released. After all that, how could they not be perfect?) just don’t come here, and then I get sad. I mean look at Love, Marriage, Commitment, Soul-Crushing Ennui and Shopping or whatever it’s called. It got a 0% on rotten tomatoes. A 0%! How could I not see it?

Technically because I cannot.

Rubber

3 June 2011 @ On My Fat Ass


$37.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Sadly, I am unable to use this excuse for not having seen the great, great Rubber in the theater, since it did actually play here. No, the excuse, sorry the reason for this unforgivable lapse is that girls are stupid, and I hate them. I was totally going to see Rubber, at the one showing that it was given in the UK, midnight, at the Duke of York’s in Brighton.

But I was talking to a girl (Italian), and I made a judgement call: see the movie, or keep talking in the hopes that I would at some point get the courage to ask for her number. Given what I only now in hindsight see as the inevitable outcome (I did not), let’s just say it’s a situation not unlike the second drink: just as the second drink drives reason from the brain just enough to forget that the third, fourth and eighteenth drink are inevitable, cuteness encourages you think you might be brave, when you are not. It’s a problem that can only be solved with a second drink.

Oddly, the same exact situation happened for Drive Angry 3Dmidnight showing, girl (Greek) at bar, not getting the number, and I would have stayed and remained just as paralyzed, and just as convinced that I wouldn’t be, except my friend Richard was waiting for me at the theater. Boys are stupid. For reminding me that girls are stupid.

And yet, it is the human race, consisting as it does of boys and girls, that imagined, filmed, distributed, and then sent via post a blu-ray of Rubber. This is a film, of which you have probably heard, yet for some reason have not seen, about a tire that comes to life and begins to kill people with its mind. The critics are convinced that this act of cinematic terrorism, that it is deliberately an attempt to make no sense. As it happens, so is the filmmaker himself, as he introduces the film with a sheriff getting out of a trunk of the car and explaining how all the great films have ‘no reason’ behind them.

Alternatively, Rubber may be a ‘meta’ film, where an Audience in the desert watches the aforementioned tire go through its adventure through binoculars in a post-modern comment, well, at this point I think the only thing that post-modernism can comment on is post-modernism.

Both of these viewpoints are tricks. Do not listen to them. Filmmakers never know what they’re talking about. Only the films do.

When I first started writing two and a half years ago, it was at the challenge of a friend that I should say something about every film I saw. As it turned out, I was not even up to this imagined pressure, and soon folded. Having started again, I promised myself that I would only write about films that actually interested me, which is why having seen Win Win (about how bad winning is, as long as you’re really, really good at winning), Los Ojos de Julia (like all Spanish horror, it’s actually a melodrama; sweet, but it is really worth a complete…), Priest 3D (you would think I would love a cyber-punk western with train full of vampires, but I didn’t), 13 Assassins (you would think I would hate a repetitive film with indistinguishable characters and a 45 minute long poorly staged and incompetently filmed action sequence at the end, and I did. Strike that: you would think I would love it and I didn’t), you won’t see me saying a damned thing about them.

Having missed Rubber, it came up on the Lovefilm queue, and I popped it in, not thinking anything of it. I would like to say that I knew I was going to write about it when the film opens with a cop car very slowly and deliberately running over chairs inexplicably set up on a desert road, but that’s not quite true. I knew, given the subject matter and the opening shot, that we were dealing with a surrealist film, a genre of which I am rather fond.

The pleasure is in making it your own film by investing it with whatever meaning you want. By the way, the actual best interpretation is that blowing up heads is awesome.

I’ve always said, and stuck to it, that there are basically two types of films: surreal, and action. Everything else is a filmed play. This is because these are the two genres that actually take advantage of film as a medium, rather than a way of transmitting information through talking heads. This is why if you text, eat, play ‘Plants v. Zombies’ and talk to your Mom on the phone during CSI, Pride and Prejudice or Rushmore they still make sense. If you did this through El, Die Hard, Naked Lunch or Speed Racer, they would not, or rather they would not in the wrong way.

My, ahem, ticket

My, ahem, ticket

Why do I love surrealist film? Let me give you an example. In Rubber, as the tire comes to life and rolls along, it finds itself destroying things: first accidently by breaking bottles, and soon intentionally by blowing up people’s heads with mind bullets.

The tire’s coming into consciousness is an obvious metaphor for the developmental process of object-based masculinity, where the ontology of internal/external split is determined by physical action (‘the world as it is‘), which can only inevitably lead to a manifestation of violence inherent in logic itself. And this is why I love surrealist film, because this one and only perfect, absolute and certain interpretation is one of an infinite number. The pleasure is in making it your own film by investing it with whatever meaning you want.

By the way, the actual best interpretation is that blowing up heads is awesome.

In order for this to work, however, it has to be well-made. Anyone can make an surrealist film, especially an accidental one (see Sucker Punch, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Good Luck Chuck, etc.). Having watched the first few seconds, I knew the genre, but I didn’t know that I was going to write about it until a few moments later, when one of the characters complains: ‘Why did he have to run over all the chairs? We could have sat in those’.

Unlike the vast majority of conventional narrative films, Rubber created its universe, and then let its characters believe in it. Most films have a story which the characters robotically follow against their own internal logic. When you’re screaming ‘don’t look under the stairs!’ or ‘don’t marry Dermot Mulroney!’ or ‘don’t let Shia LaBeouf live!’ (sorry, that’s real life), it’s because the plot requires them to do so, even if the characters wouldn’t want to. It’s boring and lazy, and it should say something about the current state of cinema that the most structurally sound (and, as it happens, the most beautifully shot) film of the year is Rubber.

Take for example, when Robert (that’s the tire’s name, again, awesome), breaks into a hotel room and takes a shower. The maid takes it as a prank and throws him outside. What’s amazing are two things. First, we know what the tire is thinking, so to speak. This makes Rubber a great deal like a Pixar film, which allows me to invoke the rule of damaged one-dimensional characters. Robert, in this case, is a like an extremely sociopathic Wall•E: mute, and single-minded, and thusly extremely easy to connect to.

The tire is alive in movie shorthand simply via the physical motions it goes through: shaking equals breathing, stopping and turning equals hesitating, and so on, and movie shorthand is extremely effective. One of Pixar’s great successes is the creation of these types of characters, which are easier to sympathize with and more logically consistent than people in well-reviewed and shitty films like The Fighter, where the ‘complexity’ of the characters allows them to basically do whatever they want according to the structure of the story. And yes, I’m aware that it’s based on a real life. I don’t care if something is realistic; I care if it’s good. If I liked reality, why would I see so many movies?

To get to our second point of structural integrity, having been so unjustly ejected from his shower, Robert then proceeds to go back into the room. We know that he blows up people’s head with his mind. We know that he’s angry at the maid. The door closes. And then the filmmaker does something very strange. He doesn’t show what happens next. There isn’t a narrative filmmaker alive who could resist this temptation, and yet our very pretentious M Quentin Dupieux does something very unpretentious; he lets us infer what will happen next. Like Mr. Elmore Leonard, he takes out the boring parts.

But what’s the most important thing about believing in your own universe? It’s funny. When the Accountant (is it a coincidence that the two best films of the year were both midnight showings at the Duke of York’s and have a character named the Accountant? No, it must be that Hollywood is vast machine designed for the entertainment of one individual (me), by juxtaposing narrative film so that contra-film could make actual narrative film. Or coincidence) returns to the scene of the sleeping Audience to wake them up for the next day of watching the tires, he goes through their wallets and pockets some of their cash. When a member of the Audience gets hungry (again, thinking it through – if they’re in the desert watching a tire kill people through binoculars, they’re going to get hungry), and tries to eat the rabbit that Robert blew up with his mind, he is chastised by another member of the audience: ‘Idiot. Can’t you see that it’s fake?’ And finally, when the Accountant attempts to poison the last member of the Audience (Mr. Wings Hauser!), it is inevitable we would come back and find that he had simply forgotten and ate the food himself. And died. It’s what Homer Simpson would have done.

Rubber isn’t perfect, and the weaker moments can be identified by their seriousness and ‘commentary’. When the aforementioned accountant dies a horrible, and slowly filmed, death in front of Mr. Hauser, we get the feeling that we’re getting a lesson on death in movies is different than death in real life. Why it’s as insightful as Mr. Steven Spielberg! Likewise, when the Accountant brings a single turkey to feed the Audience, and they tear into like cannibals, it’s over the top as it is. You don’t need Mr. Hauser to say, ‘Animals’. We get it. Don’t oversell the joke. It’s what Homer Simpson does now. Finally, when the tire becomes infatuated with Mlle. Roxane Mesquita (French), why doesn’t he just ask for her phone number?

Come on. It’s just not realistic.

The Take

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Profits!
For even thinking about making a movie whose main character is a tire that blows people up with its mind, you get:
$5.00
For nailing it, you get:
$25.00
What do I mean by nailing it? Would you think Robert’s character through enough to know he would watch aerobics? I didn’t think so.
$8.00
Shallow, shallow, shallow focus.
$4.00
Total Profits
$42.00
Losses!
If you’ve got a sentient tire, do you really want us to take you seriously on ‘violence’?
$5.00
Total Losses
$5.00

$37.00

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