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Attack of the Killer Tire: 'Rubber' Hits the Road in a Curious Tale of Bloodlust

A murderous slab of rubber rolls through the Mojave in Quentin Dupieux's Rubber, now playing at the Lumiere.

If you’ve ever wondered whether contemporary filmmakers have run out of original stories to tell, look no further than Rubber, Quentin Dupieux’s cheerfully deranged tale of a killer car tire rolling down a barren interstate, using psychokinesis to obliterate anyone who stands in his way. (Yes, it’s a he. No Christine here.)
 
Why does Robert, as the radial avenger is known, persist in his seemingly arbitrary quest to splatter the heads of his victims? Why ask why? To ascribe motive or reason to a slab of rubber, innocuous as he seems to the abusers who kick him, curse him and toss him into the street, would be to prove Dupieux’s point, which is well taken: that viewers are willing to accept (and, in some cases, infer meaning from) even the silliest scenarios.
 
That’s not to suggest that Rubber is an indictment of our complicity in perpetuating senseless myths, though clearly Dupieux, who wrote and edited the movie, is encouraging some measure of self-awareness. He acknowledges the audience early on, asking us to question what we are told, no matter how trivial. Why, for instance, did Steven Spielberg choose to make E.T. brown?
 
No reason, he says, and who’s to argue? But if Rubber was created merely to hold a mirror up to our perceptions, to mock our willingness to believe, it wouldn’t be half as much fun as it is. Dupieux has a subversive sense of humor, never more evident than when the authorities, led by a cop (Stephen Spinella, of Milk) who steps through the fourth wall to acknowledge the absurdity, try to lure the killer tire into a trap with promises of sex. (Insert your own condom joke here.)
 
If all this sounds too wacky for your sensibilities, it probably is. The audiences Rubber was made for are those more inclined to gag on generic Hollywood offerings than to go back for seconds. That doesn’t mean it’s a great movie – it isn’t – but it’s a surprisingly thoughtful one, born of an inventive spirit. On some level, it’s like cinematic performance art; not every gamble Dupeiux takes pays off, but you have to admire him for taking the risks.

Rubber is now playing at the Lumiere Theatre. For tickets and showtimes, click here.