I love nonsense. We, as a race, crave order and predictability. The X factor makes us uneasy. It scares us; makes us suspicious of one another. When motives are not clear, people start connecting dots, often with disastrous results. Whole horror movies have been written around this concept. Hell, the entire genre is balanced on this point first and foremost. There’s a great Twilight Zone episode called The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street that explores this concept. When strange, unexplained shit starts happening on Maple Street in the middle of a blackout, the entire neighborhood ecosystem breaks down and people become more and more frightened until their suspicion and fear of one another boils over and someone gets shot. It’s one of my favorites. It’s a powerful episode nearly undone by its cynical, soft-pitch ending. But I digress. I love nonsense. It’s a nice break from the oppressive order of every day life and I have a few go to guys who do it up right and offer me their reality-interference for a period of no less than ninety minutes.
David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Guy Maddin make these movies that are maddening explorations of chaos. I’m sure that to them, their abstractions of cinema make perfect sense but to me, it’s a jumble of bugfuck crazy ideas that take me out of my comfort zone and keep me off balance for their entire running time. Their movies tend to be pretty dark, though, and sometimes a guy craves nonsense with a sense of humor that lacks the intellectual baggage that comes with Lynch’s notions of transformation or the seedy underbelly of any given community, Jodorowsky’s metaphysical applications of The Tarot and Maddin’s fractured look at repressed sexuality. No. Sometimes I just want to watch a movie where a steel-belted radial blows people’s heads up with psychokinesis.
So there’s this tire. It lifts itself out of the sand in the desert and begins to roll away, occasionally encountering trash and desert vermin that it destroys simply by willing it to blow up. Meanwhile, a man hands out binoculars to a group of people who have gathered in the distance to watch the tire do its thing. The tire’s travels eventually take it to a motel where it becomes fascinated by a beautiful French woman but things turn ugly when the tire blasts the head off of housekeeping and the police show up to investigate. The only witness, the motel owner’s son, insists that the killer is the tire and the sheriff definitely knows more about what’s happening than he let’s on. Will the police catch the tire before it kills again? Who is this mysterious French woman? Who the hell are those people watching through the binoculars and for that matter, just what the fuck is going on here?
Ultimately, you’re going to have to make the choice if your valuable free time is worth a screening of Rubber so let me put this all on front street. This movie makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. There’s a scene right at the beginning where the Sheriff strolls in front of the camera, breaking the fourth wall, and explains that there’s all this shit out there in popular movieland that happens for no reason and yet we accept it for simply being there. He dedicates the movie to ‘no reason’ and then climbs back into the car trunk from whence he came and is driven away before the rest of the zany proceedings take place.
I can say with confidence that there isn’t a movie out there like Rubber. Nothing. Not even close. It’s a fairly threadbare one-note joke that is stretched thin over the course of nearly an hour and a half and for most people with a streak for foolishness, this joke is going to get old fast. It’s a film in love with its own absurdity and what plot there is doesn’t seem to go anywhere. A tale of a one-sided love affair between an old tire and the woman that it can never has is certainly fucking strange but what’s even stranger is the floating idea that characters within the film are in on the joke without letting on. There’s this ongoing idea that the crowd of spectators’, a sort of surrogate audience (you and me), and their survival is where the entire film’s joke hinges. So when a plot to kill them all off with poisoned food fails, the story and this meta-layer of characters, the guy managing the spectators and his master, the Sheriff, are forced to push on with the proceedings even though they’ve demonstrated to just about everyone that none of this is real and none of it is actually happening. It’s all there as if to say that soaring way above all of our heads is this heady metaphor for, I don’t know, something but what it is is up to us to decide if we feel like devoting the energy to that sort of analysis at all. I don’t. I’m perfectly happy to take the night off and let my brain rest while I giggle at a movie whose joke runs out of gas about half way through.
This is compelling nonsense, though. You must understand this. As the proceedings wander aimlessly, there’s a feeling that it’s all leading up to something and even though it does come to a climactic conclusion, the payoff is just as nonsensical as the rest of the movie. I like a good piece of dadaist absurdity and parts of Rubber worked for me with flying colors but every progression in the weirdo plot leads to a dead end with very little reward. Director, Quentin Dupieux, is an ace with the camera and I’m still trying to figure out how they made the tire roll on its own. From a technical standpoint, Rubber is pretty amazing but it takes a strong will and a strong degree of understanding to accept it as a worthwhile piece of entertainment. It doesn’t always work and the way that practically everything works out in the end teeters on a cliff that plunges straight down into outrage. Buyer beware. Rubber is not for everyone. It’s clearly intended for a particular audience (perhaps bong-rips nation) but most people just aren’t going to get it.