LIFF26 - Aaltra - Cinema Review

'Aaltra doesn't laugh at the disabled, it accepts that the disabled have as much power to make you laugh as the able-bodied.'

After previous successful outings at the festival, 2004's Aaltra returned to LIFF this year to, once again, a very appreciative audience. Following two newly wheelchair-bound miserabilists on a journey involving moto-cross and non-existent law suits, Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine's comedy is a constant delight of visual gags and ink-black humour.

The writing and directing duo, who also star, start early, once tragedy has beset their two grumpy protagonists. As their ambulance drivers stop for a drink there are four beers on the bar but only two people visible. Very slowly, two hands reach up from the invisible bodies of the wheelchair-bound duo. It is the sign from the directors that everything has changed: even having a pint will not longer be as it was.

The agenda here is difficult to lay a finger on, until you realise that there isn't one. This isn't a film particularly for or about people with a disability. It is a film which recognises we are all human and therefore all prone to stupidity, insensitivity, despondency and ridiculous mirth-making. Aaltra doesn't laugh at the disabled, it accepts that the disabled have as much power to make you laugh as the able-bodied.

With that mantra, de Kervern and Delépine hold little back. Both of the leads are unlikeable and their journey involves swindling some German's out of a meal, stealing an electric wheelchair and terrorising a moto-cross bike designer (bizarrely played by Jason Flemyng). The pay-off at the end perhaps goes a little too far but you'll be a stronger man than the entire audience at LIFF if it doesn't make you chuckle.

The 26th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 1st November to 18th November at venues around the city. Programming includes several UK premières, the popular Night Of and Day Of The Dead and a selection of competition films in the Official Selection.

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