ponedjeljak, 28. travnja 2014.

Gustave de Kervern & Benoît Delépine - Aaltra (2004), Avida (2006)


Bolesni belgijski filmovi s artističkim super-egom.
Umjetni bubrezi između Montyja Pythona i Jacquesa Tatija.

Like film reels as well as like life itself, roads can take people on wild detours and unexpected digressions before winding up at an arbitrary endpoint - and so the road movie has always been a winning cinematic genre, where the accumulated details of the journey are every bit as important as the final destination. In the road movie, viewers expect a bit of deviation from the norm, expect to travel off the beaten track as much as on. It is a genre where a certain amount of eccentricity comes fitted as standard - but even so, the Belgian road movie Aaltra features just about the oddest mode of trans-national conveyance since a 73-year-old drove across America on a lawnmower in David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999). For the bumpy ride that Aaltra offers, there are simply no seatbelts to fasten.
Ben (Benoît Delépine) is a disgruntled commuter, more interested in professional motocross than in getting his lonely wife (Isabelle Delépine) pregnant. Gus (Gustave de Kervern) is a lazy farmhand. Both are disgruntled, selfish, hopeless, petty, rude and barely likeable - and they also just happen to be next door neighbours, locked in a seemingly endless feud of minor disagreements and escalating mean-spiritedness.
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One day, their tit-for-tat rivalry leads to a violent altercation, in which both men are accidentally crushed by Gus' tractor, and they find themselves side by side in hospital beds, completely paralysed from the waist down. Abandoned and alone, each man sets out separately on a journey across Northern Europe - Ben hoping to catch some motocross events and Gus seeking compensation for his injuries from the tractor company Aaltra, based in Finland. Yet their crippling disability keeps bringing the pair together and soon they have become partners in wheelchair crime as they make their way to Aaltra and an unexpected double punchline.
After Ben and Gus have been confronted in hospital with the permanence of their condition and the untold difficulties it will bring to their lives, for a brief moment either man is shown quietly weeping to himself in bed. It is a sequence that reveals, through contrast, the essential style of Aaltra. For these are the only close-ups to be found in the entire film, and they are also, quite simply, the only two shots that in any way invite our sympathies for Ben and Gus. Every other crisp, black-and-white image has been captured by cinematographer Hugues Poulain in long shot, maintaining a cool, flat distance that excludes sentiment, or easy identification. Even the accident itself is presented with an oblique matter-of-factness that makes it seem no more significant than anything else which befalls the duo.
And there's the rub. The unwritten laws of genre would have it that cinematic disability is somehow as ennobling as it is life changing, and that the principal players in a road movie should undergo a transformative rite of passage. Yet in Aaltra, these laws go right out the window. Ben and Gus were arseholes before their accident and remain arseholes after it and their journey is not towards personal improvement, redemption or the overcoming of impossible odds, but rather it takes them merely to a place where they seem always to have belonged.
Some of the people that they encounter in their travels, including the racist motocross fan, played with typically reactionary relish by Benoît Poelvoorde (Man Bites Dog), respond with ignorance, indifference or sickening abuse to their wheelchair-user status; but the fact remains that Ben and Gus take full, manipulative advantage of anyone who makes the mistake of showing them some kindness. As one of their victims (Jason Flemyng) puts it after Ben has made off with his motorbike: "It's people like you that give people in fucking wheelchairs a bad name." If genre dictates that we should like Ben and Gus, the film does its best to dissuade us of this predisposition, exposing along the way our own prejudices about disability.
Written and directed by its two stars, Belgian stand-ups Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine, and seemingly named in such a way as to ensure its place at the top of any film database, Aaltra is a celluloid tribute to the deadpan style of Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki (Ariel, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, The Loser Trilogy), culminating in a brilliant cameo from the man himself. Grim, bleak, misanthropic, confronting and, of course, uproariously funny from beginning to end, Aaltra is a must-see for those who like their comedy Jim Jarmusch dry, rather than Farrelly Brothers broad. - Anton Bitel

I've only met one other person who has ever heard of Aaltra. I find most good cinema by idly channel-hopping on late-night television. With Aaltra I needed to see just one frame and a panning shot to know it was for me. I'm not some grand connoisseur; with so many bland-looking movies it's very easy to tell an interesting one in a few moments. Aaltra is shot in grainy black and white with long, slow takes. I was laughing, too: a mirth that started low down – illicit – then rose to delighted hilarity.
Aaltra was written and directed by two French comedians: Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, who also play the lead characters. It's not just weepingly funny and politically incorrect. To my tastes it's wonderfully shot and constructed – every scene shows a real cinematic imagination at work. The directors are sensitive as to where the camera should be; they construct visually layered scenes and cut just when a scenario is drained of all meaning and poignancy.
Delépine plays an awkward moto-cross fanatic, sacked from his job and jilted by his bored wife; De Kervern is a disgruntled farmworker and near neighbour. Both are injured in a freak combine harvester accident – which is their own fault. They are hospitalised together and subsequently confined to wheelchairs. The narrative takes off on an insane road trip, both of them teaming up in an odd and silent solidarity, attempting to hitch together in their wheelchairs towards Finland to claim spurious compensation from the company – Aaltra – that manufactured the combine harvester.
Both are wonderfully cast. Delépine's lugubrious face shifts into exasperation. Glum De Kervern looks like a defunct, permanently ungrateful Grateful Dead roadie.
Aaltra flies in the face of this hateful ideology that fictive characters must be attractive and sympathetic to be fascinating. They are greedy, grumpy, selfish Machiavellians, but in wheelchairs. The unsparing surveillance of their fallibility reminds us of the subtle cruelties of Fellini, Ferreri or Buñuel. Like all works of misanthropy, Aaltra justifies itself by its own casual exposure of inhumanity. Our initial discomforts and sensitivities toward the physically disabled are slowly and beautifully undermined. Especially in a scene (that seems to be real footage) where the surreptitious camera witnesses De Kervern "aggressively" begging on a small-town street and when spurned, physically assaulting pedestrians, though from the confines of his wheelchair. It's impossible not to marvel at the public's astonished horror but also its swift hostility.
Again and again these two wheelchair users test to breaking point the patience and compassion of the good-willed burghers around them. Yet from their perspective we also see the world as an utterly antagonistic and unwelcoming place for the wheelchair-bound.
Our two heroes finally reach Finland, where what they discover is as ironic and wicked as we had a hunch it would be. There is a wry cameo from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. As a worthy companion to the films of Jacques Tati, Aaltra deserves to be far better known. - Alan Warner

Avida (2006)

Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern, co-directors of the 2005 cult favorite AALTRA, return with AVIDA, another eye-popping dark comedy. The loony French filmmakers appear in leading roles as two of the three men whose plan to kidnap a wealthy woman's dog goes horribly awry. Instead of nabbing the dog, the "kidnappers" are forced to help its owner, Avida, carry out her death wish. In a cinematic universe all its own, AVIDA features stunning black-and-white cinematography that highlights the filmmakers' penchant for politically incorrect, scatological tableau sequences that both offend and amuse. As Variety put it, "Somewhere between Monty Python, Jacques Tati and a slideshow of New Yorker cartoons, this critique of life's cruel inconsistency confirms the French co-directors' gift for reinterpreting surrealism in a humorously modern key." Features a cameo appearance by legendary French director Claude Chabrol.  - www.fandor.com/films/avida

A pair of monstrous lips scarfing down potato chips - in a strange echo of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - open this little comic gem. Pitched somewhere between Jacques Tati and the joint ventures of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali in its mission to amuse and offend. Filmed in grainy Fifties-style black and white and in an almost full-screen aspect ratio (what the DVDs like to describe as "television friendly"), giving a decidedly old-fashioned feel to the proceedings.
The hero of the piece is a deaf-mute portrayed with beguiling Frankenstein's Monster-like innocence by co-director, Gustave de Kervern. When we first meet him he is apparently employed as an animated chew-toy for the amusement of a rich fellow's Doberman guard dogs. Apparently anything Kervern is involved in has a knack of going very, very wrong and justice is seen to be done in a suitably bizarre fashion.
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Next we are introduced to two zoo employees who get their hedonistic jollies tranquilizing each other with rifle darts intended for the larger animals. As if that wasn't enough, one of the two has a penchant for wrapping himself in sticky tape (co-director Benoit Delepine). The two have devised a plan to kidnap and ransom a spoiled pet with the aid of de Kervern's muscle. It should come as no surprise when this too goes awry. Our would-be kidnapper's then resort to abducting the dog's wealthy owner, Avida.
Avida is portrayed by well-upholstered actress, Velvet, who perfectly embodies bourgeois malaise but she has her own agenda and by force of personality soon imposes it on our hapless trio, who, in their usual inept fashion try to humour her.
Surreal vignettes some funny, some disturbing, pepper the narrative. Along the way there is a suicidal bullfighter who chooses to test his skills on a Rhino and a fellow (Claude Chabrol, no less) who likes to gourmandize the zoo inhabitants. A visit to the taxidermist is a particular assault on the sensibilities, which is perhaps a pity as with that event goes any chance of reaching a wider audience.
All the zaniness leads up to a final unexpected visual coup, in colour too, that perfectly fits the nature of the film and its aspirations.
Directed with a knowing visual flair, perhaps a little tightening in the script department would help, but overall this is an enjoyably anarchic festival treat. I'm sure the directors would be appalled at the thought but with a little work they might actually have had a commercial hit on their hands
- Tony Sullivan

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