Koch Lorber // 2008 // 77 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // September 17th, 2009
"Come with me my love
To the sea, the sea of love
I want to tell you
How much I love you."
-- Phillip Baptiste, "Sea of Love"
Fiona and Dom (Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, L'iceberg) are nuts for Latin dance, entering and winning nearly every competition they can find. One night while driving home victorious, however, they must swerve to avoid a man attempting suicide and wreck their car. While the suicidal man escapes unharmed, the accident causes Fiona to lose her leg and Dom to lose his memory. Through all this adversity, their one dream remains to get back on the dance floor.
The most surprising thing about Rumba is how light a comedy it is. Gordon and Abel, who wrote and directed as well as starred, begin with an impressively morbid premise but, with barely an acknowledgement of their tragedy, the characters bounce through a story that could have been a deeply black comedy, but is a farce in the classic French tradition. Instead of using amputations and suicides for biting satire, they use these themes to present a light, breezy comedy that works because of how they ignore the sadness and focus on the strength of their characters. Like the films of Jacques Tati, Rumba is nearly wordless; the gags and the atmosphere drive the story instead of dialog. It's very rare to see a comedy so free of dialog, but it doesn't feel odd or out of place at all. Instead, the way the story moves, and the way the actors move, tell the story brilliantly. Not only do you not notice the lack of dialog, talking would be superfluous and redundant; words are unnecessary.
Breezy as the film is, however, it doesn't offer a series of cliched, thoughtless gags. There's plenty of physical humor; much of the story revolves around the way the characters move, but they thumb their noses at sensitivity, making light of Fiona unable to get used to her crutches, limply pinballing between desks in front of her students while they look on in horror, and making her prosthetic the cause of their misery as, after the wooden leg catches fire, she sets everything ablaze in an attempt to escape, making it worse with every step. The prosthetic lobby may not like it very much, but not only are the scenes very funny, they are amazingly performed by the actors, who clearly know their pratfalls. Gordon and Abel are both fantastic, dancing in all of their movements while showing a rare and beautiful chemistry befitting a married couple.
Rumba wins on style as well. A stylistic explosion, the film is as kinetic as the music they dance to. Brightly lit, garish colors burst onto the screen, objects in scenes stand at odd angles to each other and the characters, and almost impossible setups give the film an irreverent, sometimes surreal feel. The characters dance with every movement through these scenes, but the three large production dance numbers are the strangest and best scenes of the film. Fiona and Dom dance over the ocean or watching their shadows rumba independent of their bodies are wonderfully strange scenes, some of the wildest and most enjoyable parts of the film.
Koch Lorber has done better than their usual with their release of Rumba. The image looks fantastic all the way through. This is clearly a small budget film, but it's hard to tell from this image. Bright and clear with brilliant colors and sharp image through, the transfer is nearly perfect. The sound isn't quite as fine, but is still acceptable. The stereo mix is a little flat, which is too bad for such a musical film, but all the sounds are clearly delineated and there's no trouble hearing any of the dialog. Our only extra is a series of deleted scenes and outtakes which, while fun, are unnecessary to the film.
Rumba is a fun film with great music and extremely likeable performers who know how to use their feet. This will appeal to a much wider audience than the dance crowd.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Lorber
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site