Dir. Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern. France. 2008

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The directors of the cult French classi Aaltra, return with a tale in tribute to a French anarchist that gives the film its name.  Louise-Michel tells the tale of a laid off factory worker who takes her redundancy pay to hire an assassin to kill the boss who fired her; in doing so she hires an inept security guard with fantasist dreams of guns, this happen stance leads to many misunderstandings but a black humour mixed with memorable sight gags.

Louise (Yolande Moreau) is an ex-con who is laid off by the toy factory, and who after her colleagues pool the 20.000euros together convinces them to knock off the boss.  After losing contact with her initial choice, she happens across Michel (Bouli Lanners), who proudly carries his gun and seems perfect but his ineptitude leads him to sub-contract the job to inexperienced gunmen, leading to hilarious results.

In this current global recession, where money is of the essence you sympathise with the female workers at the factory, but you cannot feel morally conflicted about their subversive decision to seek justice.  (Oddly, this film was released one week after the crisis at Lehman Brothers in its homeland; but has had to wait two years for a UK release.)

The cult classic Aaltra had the premise of two wheelchair users trailing across Belgium to seek vengeance on the manufacturers whose machinery led to their disability, this sight gag of two wheelchairs on the road led to many a sight gag.  And the directing pair repeat this trick on numerous occasions; such as when they the two leads first meet and he tries to find his home in the caravan park, a simple task leads to a maze of wondering where he is going; and when he attempts target practice but mistakenly shoots a cow to uproarious effect.

Much like their previous work, the film soon descends into a cross-European odyessey as the answer to Louise's question of who sacked her becomes ever longer.  This movement of characters from town to next town is a bit of a shame, as any film reliant on gunplay and assassins should be geographically restricted to the town where the action initialises, it is a generic convention a la In Bruges, unless it has the geopolitical spectrum of The Bourne Trilogy or the leisure of expense that James Bond has.

What does not get mentioned in the reviews upon its theatrical release is the question of gender in the two leading roles, and how they have both transgressed from the gender they were born as - whilst alluded to earlier in the film, it does not get spoken about until near the film's conclusion and then washed over somewhat, as the directors seek laughs.

The directors perhaps did not realise they had a convincing drama about sexuality, disability and moral fortitude in their hands.  The pursuit of laughs sometimes goes down a dead end, such as the poor in taste sight gag of an ill chosen hitman, who shows of a scale demonstration of the Twin Towers.  Just as in poor taste, was Michel utilising his terminally ill cancer-stricken cousin, in attempting to bump off said boss. After this, the film's laughs are harder to come by as they tried too hard to get a laugh.

Whilst the film fails to deliver on the moral quandries it poses, it does deliver on sheer inventiveness and absurd behaviour by less than perfect characters.  The surreal nature of the film may lend Benoit and Kervern another cult following.

The DVD features a nice set of deleted scenes, theatrical trailer and stills gallery; somewhat good set of extras for a foreign title.

The film is released by Axiom Films on DVD on Monday 25th April for £15.99RRP
Jamie Garwood

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