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  • TBC
  • Comedy
  • 2008
  • 77 mins




Disaster collides with a pair of married dancers in this, the second comic feature directed, written, produced and performed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy (The Iceberg)


"Around and around his ration of rice my dog rowdily runs."

As Rumba opens, Fiona (Fiona Gordon) teaches her class of young French schoolchildren some English phrases of unlikely utility, while through the classroom window we see her lanky, tracksuited husband Dom (Dominique Abel) running rowdily with his gym class pupils.

Indeed, animals loom large in the background of Rumba. At home Fiona and Dom slurp a long strand of spaghetti, their lips meeting in the middle, recalling the iconic scene from Disney's canine cartoon feature Lady And The Tramp (1955) - and later an all-too-real stray pooch (whom Fiona calls Rumba) will play a significant part in the couple's comic misadventures. There is also a chorus of cows in a field that placidly observes the characters' various to-ings and fro-ings, and a large snail slimes its way through the meandering narrative. Meanwhile, decorating the wall of the couple's house is a painting of a pair of anthropomorphised, fully-dressed giraffes entangled in an ungainly tango. It might as well be a portrait of Fiona and Dom themselves for the only thing the long-limbed, happy-go-lucky two-some loves more than one another is the romance and rhythm of Latin dancing.

Driving home at night from yet another triumph at a regional dance championship, they crash while swerving to avoid would-be suicide Gérard (Philippe Martz). What follows is a litany of loss. In the accident, Fiona has lost a leg, Dom has lost his memory and in the chaos that their disabilities engender, both will lose their jobs. Fiona's wheelchair (and later her pain au chocolat) is stolen, their house burns down, Dom forgets the way back, and then - worst of all - they lose each other. Their experiences ought to be an unremittingly bleak tragedy, but polyhyphenate filmmakers Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy transform these catastrophes into a magical comedy, brought to life by brilliantly choreographed physical performances, surreal observational detail, aloof widescreen camerawork, and the animalistic beat of the rumba soundtrack.

Rumba's gently clownish burlesque is infused with the spirit of Jacques Tati, and in particular its sparse, half-English dialogue and third-act seaside setting will strike a welcome chord with fans of Tati's classic Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953). Meanwhile, the use of rear projection, shadow play and matte shots ally Rumba more closely to the stylisations of a bygone era than to the cool digital trickery of our own age.

The result is a film of mannered, thoroughly human charm, where love moves as slowly but surely as a snail, and where the same rain that ruins a beach gathering can help the hopelessly lost to find one another again. The pleasures of rice might be in short supply but nothing will stop this loving couple from rowdily, doggedly pursuing their blighted passions.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Shirley Verin, Philippe Martz, Louis Lecouvreur, Clément Morel, Odile De Coligny, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Claire Dubien, Bruno Romy, Ophélie Anfry
  • Director: Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy, Dominique Abel
  • Screen Writer: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy
  • Producer: Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz, Gordon Abel, Fiona Gordon
  • Photographer: Claire Childéric
  • Composer: Gilles Laurent, Meert Meert

In a nutshell

Despite having the bleakest of themes, this charming absurdist treat will put a Tati-esque skip in your step.

by Anton Bitel

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