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July 17, 2005

{     Rubber Johnny     }    

rubberjohnny Rubber Johnny is the much-anticipated new video project from tag team champions of the world, Chris Cunningham and Richard D James. Whether you have followed Cunningham’s career throughout the years (A.I. with Kubrick at 17, the genius Aphex collabos, the distinctly non-jiggy-with-it All Is Full of Love, and one of the only Madonna videos to maintain this author's attention the whole way through since exiting puberty) or you picked up the Director’s Label series and wondered who the weird English guy was, it is understood that Rubber Johnny will not be the “feel-good” comedy sensation of the year. What was once only to be a 30 second promo, Cunningham had reportedly been working on a frame-by-frame basis with Johnny since his big-screen Gibson-inspired Neuromancer project collapsed almost four years ago. Those seeking Meg Ryan fumbling her way into true love set to Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” on the soundtrack should probably skip it. Released through the WarpFilms, Rubber Johnny (a UK condom coloquilism) is a 6-minute piece set to Twin’s “W19RHBASEMENT“. The protagonist is a wheelchair-bound mutant teenager whose body has a tendency to morph in shape and pulsate light beams during times of increased stress. He’s essentially a closet case whose father keeps imprisoned in a basement where his only companions are apparently that of his pet Chihuahua, his imagination, and what looks to be 10-foot lines of coke. Longtime fans will note several aspects of this piece being reminiscent of Cunningham’s work with Squarepusher, but while Come On My Selector was a light-hearted romp with Keystone-esque screwball theatrics, Rubber Johnny is anything but. Imagine a turbo-charged Solid Gold-adaptation of the Paris Hilton sex tape starring the Elephant Man and that will be your welcome mat into Rubber Johnny’s world. The jarring effect of Cunningham’s nightvision to capture Johnny’s freak-freak quickly cut with trailing dissolves, sudden freeze frames, and constant depth and lighting changes are the perfect method for presenting Cunningham’s anatomical godplay and James' trademark seizures. This effect is rendered more unsettling when seen in contrast to the long, non-scored shots used initially to introduce us to Johnny’s world (a structure also seen in Windowlicker) but also within the piece that serve as breaks between each progressively-heightened plateau. These intermissions give us insight into the extraordinary circumstances of Johnny’s situation, a key difference from the more emotionally-distant past projects like Monkey Drummer. Only Johnny and that creepy-ass dog can be seen and while the cameraman’s sensitivity helps us sympathize with Johnny, it is the father’s door-slamming commentary that raises the tension to that Carrie-esque point (real or imagined) where the cameraman and dog pretty much know they’re fucked. The companion book is a more static way of clarifying the material and showcasing just how good Cunningham’s creations really are (this ain’t Basket Case). While light on actual text, the reader is greeted with over thirty clinical-inspired examing room portraits of everyone’s favorite contortionist. Hair, teeth, and buttholes galore. But while unfortunately no wallet-size, the photos successfully exhibit the attention to detail that could’ve easily been slighted in the 2 frame durations. While Windowlicker comparisons will be inevitable, this is truly an amazing work that stands on its own. Simply put, shit is bangin like “Bad Dudes” in ’88.

     » Warp's Rubber Johnny site


Aphex's track on the video is "Afx 247 v.7" from the album druqks which has been edited into the W19RHBasement Edit in Rubber Johnny.

Posted by: m-nice at July 18, 2005 3:25 PM

I knew it was off of Drukqs but couldn't remember the name (his track titles are so unusual anyway). Thanks.

Posted by: Eric at July 18, 2005 5:21 PM

that wa %#$&ing freaky whare and when can I buy that on DVD?

Posted by: wiindy licker #1 at July 21, 2005 1:22 AM

Eric, thanks for the heads up, ever since Chris Cunningham's Directors Label video came out years ago I've been waiting for Rubber Johnny. On a side note Directors label will be releasing vol.4-7 on September 13th feautring Anton Corbijn, Jonathan Glazer, Mark Romanek, and Stephane Sednaoui so mark your calender...

Posted by: Jay at July 25, 2005 4:02 AM
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