Exclusive: Quentin Dupieux (aka Mr. Oizo) on Rubber


There’s a killer tire on the loose!

Although better known as his electronic alter-ego Mr. Oizo (pronounced “wazo”), whose breakout hit “Flat Beat” was not only known for its catchy synth bassline hook but also from the yellow puppet known as “Flat Eric” who appeared in an inescapable Levi’s Ad, Quentin Dupieux has been bouncing between the dance club circuit and making odd feature films for the last dozen years. Rubber is his third of those, but also his first to get a serious release in the United States following buzz out of diverse festivals from Cannes to Austin’s Fantastic Fest.

Opening with an introductory monologue by a state police officer, played by Stephen Spinella, essentially talking about why so many things in movies we watch seem to happen for no particular reason, we’re then introduced to the protagonist, a seemingly ordinary car tire that has somehow gained sentience as well as telekinetic powers that it uses to cause all sorts of destruction and mayhem as it rolls along the highway. Watching the gory carnage created by the tire whenever it encounters humans is a group of spectators with binoculars, but even they overstay their welcome, just one of the twists Dupieux puts on what would have merely been an odd slasher film.

Rubber may be exactly the type of quirky cinematic filmmaking you’d expect from Dupieux, but it also might surprise Mr. Oizo’s fans—we personally recommend his 2008 album “Lambs Anger” if you’re into bouncy synth-driven beats—because he decided to collaborate on the music with another composer, one Gaspard Augé, creating a moody score that helps establish a tone not unlike the early films of David Lynch.

ShockTillYouDrop sat down with Dupieux while he was in New York City for a special advance screening of Rubber as well as a rare New York DJ set at Webster Hall. We were surprised to learn how incredibly humble and modest he was about his music and the incredible movie he’s made.

ShockTillYouDrop.com: I read that you’ve been making movies your entire life and doing music came out of doing music for those films, so I was curious how the music drives the visuals and vice versa, and I was curious which came first in this case.

It’s realy simple. I was doing short films very young, and at one point, at age 18, I started to sell my short films to TV and one day, the guy at Canal+ who were buying the short films said, “What’s the music you’re using here?” and I was using records and the guy told me, “No, we can’t do that. We want to put your short film on the air but you need to change the music because you’ll have troubles and you have to pay for the rites.” So I had to replaced the music by something I created so I just started to make some kind of music. It was more like atmosphere. I just bought a synthesizer and I just did a few things to help the short film and then I discovered the club culture, the electronic music, and I just met Laurent Garnier, he’s a great French DJ older than me, and he just said, “Yeah, go ahead, you should do a record and I will put it out” and that’s how things happened.

Shock: You’ve also done a lot of videos based on your music and I was curious about when you have an idea for a feature film like this, do you generally have visual ideas first and then the music all comes later?

Honestly, it’s easier to do a video when the music’s ready. You have a piece of music and then you have to create something visually and so that’s easier, because you just have to close your eyes, you listen to the music, and then a few things are coming and you just have to pick the good idea, and it works. It’s quite easy. If you have a good piece of music, it’s really easy to make a good video. It’s almost impossible to make a good video on a sh*tty track because the music is stronger.

Shock: I was wondering about that, because it’s two very different ways of working. Having the visuals and then trying to find music that works with it and the other way around.

The other way, shooting “Rubber” and doing the music while I was editing the movie, to me that’s (difficult). Writing, I do it like that, I don’t even have to think about it. I’m quite good at writing. Shooting, I’m quite good with a camera. When I say “good,” I don’t say quality, I mean it’s natural for me, but then doing the music for the movie, I think I’m not good at it to be honest.

Shock: But it’s very cinematic the music so did come from out of your collaboration with Gaspard?

Yeah, but also even with someone involved, I think it’s a real job. Being the score composer, that’s a job, and there’s a science around it, so I did it so that it’s okay in “Rubber” but there’s not so much music in it, but I think it’s hard. You can transform the whole thing, you can change the spirit of the movie just with two minutes of music. It’s really scary. At one point, you have this movie—it’s been written, shot, there’s some dialogue, there’s a lot of information, and just a piece of music destroys everything or makes it better, but to me, that’s very hard. It’s a complicated dimension. I would love to meet and be friends with a real score composer. “Help me, help me!”

Shock: I noticed that you released the soundtrack for the movie back in November, well before the movie’s theatrical release.

Quentin Dupieux: The soundtrack? Yeah, for you it’s before (release), but we just put out the movie in France, and the soundtrack was ten days after that.

Shock: The idea of a tire that kills people is fairly high concept but you did something different with it. An American filmmaker may have made a straight slasher film with a tire but you have a lot of different layers including the spectators. Did a lot of those concepts evolve out of that basic idea?

Easy. To be honest, because I just started to write the movie about the tire, but I got bored very quickly. It was weak. “Okay, I have 20 pages, what am I supposed to do?” It was not enough, so I had to add another layer of reality, and I thought it was a good way to make fun of myself, because yeah, I know the idea of a tire is stupid. Also, I don’t want to do that on every movie obviously, but I like the idea of the self-conscious movie. We know it’s a movie, we know it’s all fake, and we know it’s not real. Let’s play with this, it’s fun. There’s some fun around this, and I think the spectator side creates some kind of connection with the real audience. Suddenly, you’re in the movie in a way, you’re part of it a little bit.

Shock: It’s very interactive, because the spectators basically comment on things we the audience are probably thinking while watching the movie. Was it important to you to play around with the slasher film stereotypes in some ways?

Yeah. The funny thing is since I was 15, I’ve been trying to do a horror movie because like every teenager, I’ve been watching every B-movie with blood. When you’re 15, you like it, and each time I wrote a short film or a video, the first idea was always, “Ah, I should do something with some blood” but I can’t help it, it’s always something different. I start with this and then I go back to dialogue and some other stuff, because I think I’m not good at creating any action. I think I’m pretty good with dialogue and with absurd situations, so each time I started with the idea, “Okay, I’m going to make my own Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but then no, after three pages, there’s a lot of dialogue. (laughs) I mean, that’s just the way I am. I think I’m just trying to be true to myself and I like to write without thinking. It’s almost like sub-conscious, I just write and stuff. “Okay, this is good, this is good.” I don’t like to think too much.

Shock: I don’t know if you’ve read any of the reviews, but people cite the French New Wave when talking about “Rubber,” calling it an “arthouse slasher,” because it has French sensibilities but then it’s a very American movie because you shot in the desert, you have all American actors. Did you actually shoot this in America?

Yeah, yeah. That was before having the idea of the tire, with my producer and friend, we decided, “Let’s do a movie in English” because my first picture was in French and it’s been really frustrating because it was only for France and French-speaking countries and as a musician, I have a wide audience. I have some fans in Australia, some fans in Japan, so it’s good being worldwide, even if it’s small in each country. Last night, we just had this screening, so last night I met some New York fans of my music, which is exciting, so my first picture in France, that was frustrating. That was just for France and nobody cared about it, because it’s in French, so with my producer, “Okay, we’ll do something in English.” That was the starting point of this adventure, so I wrote this story and even wrote the dialogue thinking about the translation and then we just came here and we did like everybody—casting, we find a crew and we just shot it in 14 days.

Shock: The actor who plays the police officer, Stephen Spinella, is just amazing in that opening introduction he does, so how did you find him?

It’s the casting. He’s incredible and what you saw, the monologue, the guy just did exactly the same on the casting session. It was like the guy totally understood my spirit, because some other guys… I was not here doing the casting session, it was just the casting director, so I was trying to explain before, “Yeah, I’m trying to do something serious. It’s not supposed to be funny. I don’t want someone acting funny,” and some of them were trying to be funny like, “Hey! ‘The Pianist’ of Polanski!!” And I was like, “No, no, it’s not funny.” And this guy, Stephen Spinella, it was just incredible because he’s so serious about it, it’s like he truly believes in what he’s saying. He’s like very serious, he’s not trying to be funny, and I think that’s a great performance.

Shock: He kind of reminds me of Christopher Walken, who just has a way of saying stuff that ends up being hilarious even if he’s being completely serious.

Yeah, I know what you mean.

Shock: I heard that you actually shot this all yourself, but I assume you shot all the spectator stuff separately either first or later, so did the actors in those scenes actually know what was happening in terms of what the tire was doing or did you just give them lines.

No, they had the script. They knew the script but the funny thing is that they had the script but I just shot like three days with the spectators and they never saw the tire. They were just there. “Okay, you look in this direction and this is the line and that’s it.” That’s the funny bit. For them, it was the strangest experience. They were just here with binoculaurs watching nothing and talking about something.

Shock: Have you had a cast screening so they could see the finished movie?

Yeah, some of them, yeah.

Shock: “Rubber” has played a lot of the genre festivals like Fantastic Fest and Sitges, but it also played Cannes.

Yeah, that was the best launch because that was the real premiere.

Shock: I was curious about how it played at Cannes compared to the genre festivals. Which environment did you prefer? Did you like the genre fans or more of the serious French cinephiles?

For this movie, we were honestly, when we finished it, we just thought, “I think we did it for ourselves. This is not going to be out. It’s too strange.” We love it and we were trying to find distribution in France and everyone was like, “No, no, sorry. Yeah, the idea is funny but it’s too slow, it’s too weird, we’re not interested.” And suddenly, we had Cannes and then because of this, we just sold it in 20 countries, so that’s almost a miracle. Me, being here in New York talking to you about this movie is about to be released in this country is almost a miracle. Honestly, this was not supposed to be official.

Shock: Right, it was meant as a small movie…

It’s more than small. It’s really, really small and then also it’s super-weird, it’s slow, it’s bizarre….

Shock: It’s got all the makings of a cult movie but it has these really artistic sensibilities to it, which I think a lot of people have gravitated towards. You rarely see slasher films that have this level of artistry to them, which is why I asked how it played at Cannes.

Of course, but Cannes, honestly, the movie had huge buzz at Cannes. We were in the smallest section, Critics’ Week, in the sh*ttiest theater and like 800 people were queuing to watch it. It was incredible, and everybody was talking about it just because of the plot. It was just about the plot.

Shock: Any idea what you’re going to do next? Do you have another film lined up already?

Yeah, we are starting the prep now and we are shooting in April.

Shock: Is there pressure to do something different than “Rubber” or do you have people asking you to direct their movies or do you just want to do your own thing?

Yeah, I just want to stay in the same economy and I want to stay free also. I don’t want to do that job.

Shock: Are you going to continue working with Gaspar on the music as well?

Yeah, maybe, maybe. The thing is that he’s a great composer, but he’s more into classical music or pop songs. What I meant when we spoke about a score composer is someone who penetrates the movie and brings something. Gaspar is just a very good composer. He has nice melodies, but he’s not involved in the visual side of the movie itself. He just gives me, “Okay, this is the demos, if you like them…”

Shock: He doesn’t work to picture, he just makes his own songs.

Yeah, exactly. I had to do that dirty job, but he created incredibly good things. He’s a very good composer, but I think I need someone who really works each second of film, a real score composer I guess.

Shock: Do you think you’ll continue to keep the music and film sides of your life separate or do you think you’ll go back and forth?

It’s hard because the music I do, it’s just super-fast, hysterical, distorted, and it has nothing to do with movies. It’s almost impossible to make a connection between this crazy dirty wild music and the movie. Also, there’s something a little bit disturbing like putting my music on my visuals. I’d like to do this with someone else. That’s why I always involve someone else, to bring something else, just not me, me, me with my brain. I think there’s something boring about that. I need the juice from someone else, like another talent, because the risk is to do something too much like me, me, me… that’s boring.

Only to him, because we don’t think what he does is boring at all.

Rubber has been playing on VOD since February 25, but you can finally have a chance to see it in on the big screen outside the festival circuit on April 1.

Source: Edward Douglas