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CANNES 2008 Critics’ Week / Belgium

Directorial trio back with burlesque Rumba


A failed suicide, leg amputation, amnesia, job loss, a burned-out house, a punch-up, as well as laughter and poetry all combine in Rumba [+see also:
film review
interview: Charles Gillibert
interview: Dominique Abel and Fiona Go…
film profile
, the second Belgian/French feature by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy. The film had a special screening yesterday evening in the Cannes Critics’ Week.

In the same vein as their multiple award-winning debut film L’iceberg [+see also:
film profile
(“The Iceberg”), the directorial trio take delight in plunging the audience into a burlesque world in Rumba. Filled with black humour, absurdity and repetitive comedy, the film evokes the silent era in its static shots and the deliberate artifice of the set.

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This highly original and creative drama is reminiscent of the work of Chaplin, Keaton and Tati, where the props are the source of numerous gags (the unravelling thread on the dress, the wooden leg that catches fire, the elusive crutches). Such pranks are repeated endlessly in a quirky style that doesn’t appeal to all viewers due to their differing senses of humour.

Written by the three directors, Rumba recounts the tragicomic misadventures of a couple played by Gordon and Abel. The two play an eccentric English and gym teacher, respectively, enthusiasts of regional Latino dance competitions (there is a hilarious scene of them getting dressed in the car).

The blissfully happy and slightly old-fashioned couple one day come across a depressive (Philippe Martz) whose failed suicide attempt causes them to end up in hospital. The result is an amputated leg for her and total and permanent amnesia for him. These infirmities lead to a host of catastrophes that the two characters manage to overcome with their romantic lyricism, in true melodramatic style.

Shadows of their former selves, these two unlucky and clumsy clowns – always a touch melancholy and self-mocking – continue to dance in the land of the imagination.

Produced – with equal backing – by Belgian-based Courage Mon Amour Films (the filmmakers’ production company) and France’s MK2, Rumba was made on a budget of €2.1m. This included co-production funding from the RTBF, a €350,000 advance on receipts from the National Film Centre (CNC), €500,000 from the Film and Audiovisual Centre of the French Community of Belgium, backing from the Haute-Normandie region and pre-sales from Canal + and TPS.

MK2 will release the film in France and manage international sales.

(Translated from French)

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