Quentin Dupieux (director of Rubber): Interview
“The tire is attracted not by the girl, but by something dark.”
In a monologue early on in Rubber (TMT Review), director Quentin Dupieux’s first English-language release, a guide to the in-film audience (who are getting ready to observe from afar as a tire comes to life and goes on a killing spree) says every great film is guided by an idea called “no reason.” Somewhere between absurdist and commonsensical, the speech is both a manifesto and a stand-up bit on why manifestos are silly. The basic idea: the director makes choices just ‘cause. Why is ET brown instead of green? “No reason.” Why is the protagonist in The Pianist in hiding? “No reason.”
I was half-hoping that Mr. Dupieux would answer all of my questions that way. In fact, for some questions we didn’t have time to get around to, I tried to give him an easy opportunity to do so. But fortunately for our readers, the multi-talented Mr. Dupieux (who also performs music as Mr. Oizo) was enthusiastic to chat about his new film about a killer tire and a bunch of other stuff, from the chemistry between the tire and the film’s main actress to his admiration for Spielberg’s Duel.
Maybe there’s a bit of “no reason” here. Mr. Dupieux’s quick to dismiss any claims to lofty artistic intent and slow to over-intellectualize his film, attributing some of the film’s memorable elements to circumstances, not brilliant foresight. Maybe he’s right — does intent matter? Rubber is by far the best film about a killer tire to be released so far this year, reason or no.
Just so that our readers, if they’re not familiar with it, are clear that this isn’t a film about condoms, how would you describe rubbers?… Ack, I mean Rubber! Haha, sorry, I had half an hour to write these questions.
OK. Haha. Honestly, I just think that Rubber is a fresh movie, trying to… I don’t know. Just fresh. And it has no rules. But it’s still interesting to watch. It’s just fresh. That’s my definition of “fresh.” Something that you’ve never seen before. Something that surprises you. With no basic structure. You know – the structure is simple but you cannot really predict it. So yeah, it’s something fresh. Uh, it’s something you might enjoy if you bought.
There’s this quote – are you familiar with Jean Baudrillard at all?
He’s a literary critic and philosopher, and he wrote this book on the concept of America. It kinda reminded me of Rubber. He says that, for him, the “real” America is the desert, speed (not the drug, but that’s pretty American, too), motels, films, and the road. So, when I watched the film, I thought, wow, that’s the whole list. Maybe he should have added killer tires to his definition?
“I decided to ignore Buñuel because the guy told me, ‘You’re really trying to do Buñuel!’”
But it seems like there’s something very archetypal-America about the film.
It’s basically the desert. It’s almost simple to make this look good onscreen. It’s very filmic and it’s a good space to create something because it’s like a dead space, like being somewhere else. Another planet maybe. That’s why I decided to do this in the desert, because everything’s possible in the desert. You know, the same story in the street, in town, that would have been totally different.
The desert is not real life. It’s like something different. You are somewhere else.
Speaking of the desert, are you surprised at the buzz the film is getting, especially here in LA? Maybe people here identify with it?
Yeah, for a small movie like this, yes, it’s cool, it’s exciting. But, I’m more excited about doing the next one. I’m already bored with Rubber. I don’t want to just, you know, enjoy the success I have. It’s good, it’s cool. But I need to do something better.
What is the next thing?
Ah, I cannot talk about it. It’s written. But I’m gonna shoot it before talking about it.
Uh huh. You leave Rubber very well set-up for a sequel. That’s it, huh? Are we going to see Rubbers: 2-Wheel Drive 3D in the megaplexes soon?
Could you talk a little about the film’s special effects? I’m sure your budget wasn’t huge — no CGI — but they’re very believable.
Yeah, they’re real. We did very simple mechanical effects. There are no computer tricks, just a remote-controlled tire and a puppeteer.
Was that challenging?
Not for me because I’m not an engineer. Someone did it. Yes, it was a challenge, because you don’t have much space to hide the mechanism. We had to do three prototypes before having one which was OK. It was not perfect. It was just able to roll a little bit and stop. You know, it was not able to do anything else. Everything else has been shot with a puppeteer.
OK. What about influences for the film?
When I was shooting Rubber, I was thinking about Duel, the Spielberg movie. Because it’s like the very simple kind of idea, and I think Duel is a masterpiece like, it’s really simple, one idea. You can watch the movie and there’s a lot of tension and it’s really well-shot. It’s a good example of being very good without any money. This movie impresses me a lot.
And then, talking about influences, I’m influenced by a lot of stuff. You know, I don’t even know what. Everything I watch is an influence in a way, you know, because I eat everything.
Rubber is definitely an amalgamation of a lot of diverse things.
I don’t know if it’s interesting to know what, though. We’re all influenced. You can be influenced by terrible movies. There’s no problem with that. There’s always something good to take.
“That’s why I decided to do this in the desert, because everything’s possible in the desert… The desert is not real life. It’s like something different. You are somewhere else.”
When I was watching the film, it kinda reminded me of Buñuel, but packaged in a way—
Yeah. He’s some kind of master to me. The funny thing is, I discovered him after. I was doing short films when I was 18, and a friend of mine told me, “You should watch Buñuel, because you’re trying to do the same.” And so for a bit, I was scared, you know? I decided to ignore Buñuel because the guy told me, “You’re really trying to do Buñuel!” And so I was like, no no no, I don’t wanna see! And then later I decided to watch. And yes, that was a strange feeling. Because I was feeling very close to the guy. Even though he’s very different. But, I was understanding everything.
So, Buñuel and exploding heads might have been a good combination?
Can you talk about the meta elements in the film? Like the audience within the film who’s watching everything happen and commenting on it?
I just did that because I got bored with the tire when I was writing. After 15 pages, I realized, that’s not enough. I don’t wanna do just the killer-tire movie, because I think it’s too stupid. I was bored, so I decided to bring another layer. I just thought it was funny to put some commenting people inside the movie to create some kind of connection between the screen and the real audience, because suddenly, there’s like a communication between the movie and the people in the theatre. It’s not just a movie; the movie is trying to bring you into the movie. I don’t know if you follow me.
I do, yeah.
It’s like trying to make people have a different experience. Some people said, “Oh, that’s crazy, because I was thinking about something, and then the guy onscreen said it like 13 seconds later.” So at the end, when [actor] Wings Hauser knocks on the door on the truck and says, “Hey, it’s too slow now, you should bring the action. Come on!” a lot of people told me, “I was thinking exactly the same. At this point I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is too slow, they should do something!’ and then Wings Hauser comes and says it. That’s funny.”
The character of Shiela is an interesting character. It seems like the tire, you can see it having some feelings or thoughts about her.
Yup. It’s like… Honestly, I realized this when I was shooting. I realized a strong connection between, you know, the dark side of [actress] Roxanne [Mesquida], like she’s a dark element in the movie, and the tire being attracted by her, you know? Honestly, it was written like – she was supposed to be hot. You know, she was supposed to be just the typical blond girl driving a convertible. And we’ve been lucky with Roxanne because she has this strong thing in her eye, like, she’s deep. Instantly when I started shooting with her I realized that there was a connection between the tire and her. I was like yeah, it makes sense, the tire is attracted not by the girl, but by something dark.