The thing about silent comedy is that it is sort of defined by the silence. The physical prowess of the performers, the choreography and timing is often overlooked because it seems an awful lot of work to throw into something that is quite so silly. And while a lot of the longform silent greats would often pepper their films with the occasional elegiac scene, something wistful and wonderful (to the extent that this is pretty much all that Charlie Chaplin could do near the end of his silent career), it is the pratfalls we remember.

What has this got to do with Belgian film Rumba? Its a physical slapstick comedy, though not silent in the least, as there is a lot of the titular Rumba music in it. Indeed the film starts with a terrific verbal gag, of an English teacher doing a Ecoutez & Repetez exercise gets her charges to slowly start repeating a fiendishly complicated limerick (1.54 in the video at the bottom). But this balance between clever idea and silly execution is a constant in Rumba, at the heart of it the physical and droll slapstick manoeuvres of Fiona Gordon and Dom Abel (leads, writers and directors along with Bruno Romy). And the film work primarily at its own gentle pace, it being basically a love story between two teachers one of whom becomes an amputee and the other with short term memory loss. Here is the sequence when he loses the keys to their house, undeniably dumb and out of context and more than a touch CBBC.

Jacques Tati is a touchstone here, and certainly the stars are extremely good physical comedians. Gordon in particular manages to make a routine about dropping two crutches and a folder effortlessly funny. Its a far cry from Julia Roberts tripping up. There is also a wonderful shadow dance segment (3.34 on the video below), which would have been completely at home in an MGM musical. Its a short film (77 minutes) and that is about my limit for this kind of stuff, but unlike many comedies of its type I didn’t just admire how well made it was, I actually found it funny. More clips and the ones mentioned above in the video below.