81 minutes

It's pointless to search for a rhyme or a reason in French techno musician Quentin Dupieux's third feature: Rubber isn't a conventional story, but a bewilderingly inventive exercise in audiovisual deconstruction, using the tropes of exploitation horror movies and the distancing techniques of mise-en-abyme to create a sort of arthouse funfair – a thinking man's horror movie whose nonsensical premise deflates any attempt at seriousness, only for the film itself to go all serious on us. 

     Rubber develops as an absurdist film-within-a-film about the exploits of a psychopathic, telekinetic, murderous tire, named in the end credits as “Robert”, that goes on a rampage for no good reason (as so many good exploitation-film villains). Mr Dupieux then pulls back to reveal an audience following the action in real time in the Californian desert, waiting for the tire to put on a “show” that takes its sweet time in happening. This audience, seriously mistreated by the event's absent producers (represented by a weaselly office drone identified in the credits only as “the accountant”) is also the raison d'être of the adventure of “Robert” itself – the story finds itself forced to continue for as long as there's one single audience member still standing, still wanting his money's worth of entertainment, painting a peculiar portrait of the uneasy connection between artist and audience, creation and reception: just how much of the piece is created by its author and how much by its audience? 

     Mr. Dupieux tries too hard to have his cake and eat it too; the film aims simultaneously for an absurdist homage to exploitation movies and a critique of narrative fiction, taking the pivotal “suspension of disbelief” to its absurd if logical limits, but despite the many clever conceits and surprise developments, the premise is not developed creatively enough to withstand feature length. Still, the dazzling combination of 1970s exploitation film's solar, burnt-out colours and the recursive metafictions of the French nouveau roman makes for a challenging, entertaining object that aims squarely for cult movie status. 

Starring Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick; with Wings Hauser; and Roxane Mesquida.
     Directed, written, photographed (in colour) and edited by Quentin Dupieux; produced by Julien Berlan, Gregory Bernard; music by Gaspard Augé and Mr. Oizo (mr. Dupieux); production designer, Pascale Ingrand; costume designer, Jamie Bresnan; special visual effects, Tom Talmon, Zach Bargne, Valek X. Sykes, Barzoff #14, Malakoff Studios. 
     A Gregory Bernard presentation of a Realitism Films production, in co-production with Elle Driver, ARTE France Cinéma, 1.85 Films, Rubber Films, Sindako Dokola, Backup Films; with the participation of Canal Plus, ARTE France; in association with Orange Sky. (French distributor, UFO Distribution. World sales, Elle Driver.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Medeia King 1 (Lisbon), September 1st 2011. 


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