DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

AALTRA (director/writer: Benot Delpine/Gustave K/vern; cinematographer: Hugues Poulain; editor:  Anne-Laure Gugan; music:  Les Wampas; cast: Benot Delpine (Ben), Gustave K/vern (Gus), Benot Poelvoorde (fan at the Namur Grand Prix motocross), Aki Kaurismki (Finnish tractor worker), Jason Flemyng (American motorcycling champ), Isabelle Delepine (Isabelle, Ben's unhappy wife), Stefan Everts (Motor-cross champ, Himself); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Guillaume Malandrin/Vincent Tavier; Film Movement; 2004-France/Belgium-in French, German, Dutch, German, Finnish and English, with English subtitles)

"Wickedly funny dark comedy."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brilliant, unique, oddball, wickedly funny dark comedy, with the kind of droll humor that might be found in the better silents. The one joke road movie is shot in B/W, and is flawlessly executed by co-directors and co-writers and co-stars Benot Delpine and Gustave K/vern, who usually work in TV. This was the duos first cinema directorial effort, and it's a great one.

In a small country village two hateful, unhappy neighbors, the lazy farmer Gus (Gustave K/vern) and the shirker commuter office worker Ben (Benot Delpine) reside. Ben's boss tells him over the phone that he's had it with him being away from the office for the last two months and working at home, where he's hard to reach, and shouts that if he's not in the Paris office within 30 minutes he will be fired. But when Ben gets in his car he is spitefully not allowed to use the road because the nasty neighbor Gus is on his big Finnish Aaltra tractor harvesting the crops and refuses to let him pass. Thereby Ben takes his motor bike and cuts across the field and attacks Gus. The two while fighting get entangled in the tractor and become paralyzed by a mechanical part that gets dislodged below their waists. Both are treated in the hospital and are released in wheelchairs. 

The satirical comedy is built around these two miserable paraplegics, without much knowledge of the law or common sense, who independently choose to travel a couple thousand miles in their wheelchairs to the Finland main office of the tractor company to sue them because of faulty equipment. They are forced by circumstances to travel together after they are both robbed while sleeping in the street waiting for a train confirmation needed for people with special needs. Their travel ends up in a series of hilarious adventures as they pass through different countries and display such bad manners that a visiting American motor biker (Jason Flemyng) who is victimized by them says: It's people like you that give fucking people in wheelchairs a bad fucking name!

The episodic funny bits are funniest when motor-cross fan Ben attends the Namur Grand Prix event and runs into one of the great racers and a loudmouth, racist, know-it-all fan (Benot Poelvoorde), who both diss him, and also how in one incident both cripples pig out in an hospitable German family's house as guests but are soon no longer welcomed there after they sleep off a drunken night.

I think if you're a fan of Buster Keaton or Jacques Tati, as I am, you'll get a kick out of their deadpan antics and how subversive the pic is as it takes some good whacks at society's phony sympathy (out of guilt feelings) it too often offers to the handicapped and deliciously shows how not all cripples are nice people worthy of your affection.

REVIEWED ON 1/12/2014       GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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