Film: Slack Bay/ Ma Loute

Director Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay is a bizarro dark comedy about the disappearances of local tourists in picturesque northern France. Dumont brings together Chaplin-esque physical humour and witty dialogue, resulting in a film that could prove hard to swallow for those who do not have the taste for its strangeness.

Those familiar with Bruno Dumont’s work (The Life of Jesus, Humanity) know his penchant for extreme darkness, depression, sex, violence and northern France. So, it’s no surprise that the Cannes Grand Prix winning director has included cannibalism, incest and gender bending mystery into his new comedy, which takes place atop a quaint northern French coastline.

Set in 1910, the film is a period piece about the disappearances of local tourists around Slack Bay, home to a downtrodden community of fishermen, oyster farmers and the cannibalistic Bruforts. Calais detectives Machin (Didier Despres) and Malfoy (Cyril Rigaux) are sent out to investigate the spate of disappearances, which coincide with the arrival of the Van Peteghems, a horribly rich and incestuous family who reside in an Egyptian style “Typhonium” atop a hill overlooking the sea.
The Van Peteghems embody all that is wrong with bourgeois decadence, they are lazy and hunched over due to generations of inbreeding, and communicate in a pompous accent that apparently even native French speakers have trouble with.

French stars Fabrice Luchini and Juliette Binoche happily give their bodies for these roles as they tumble clumsily across screen accompanied by a variety of bells, squeaks and whistles.
Sitting on the other side of the socio-economic hierarchy are the Bruforts, an incredibly poor family to which the titular Ma Loute (Brandon Lavieville) belongs. Dumont wastes no time in revealing the cannibalistic urges of the Brumonts, with the family ravenously munching on a bowl of bloody ears and fingers no less than 20 minutes into the film.

Trouble starts when Billie falls in love with Ma Loute. The youngsters blossoming love provide the otherwise goofy film with the occasional tender moment.

There’s many funny bits throughout Slack Bay, but the leisurely pace of Dumont’s directing style causes the jokes to either drag on or fall flat entirely. Some of the best gags lose their freshness as Dumont brings them out again and again, possibly due to a lack of ideas.

Still, there’s some laughs to be had at the expense of the pompous characters. Fans of over the top acting, physical humour and the occasional witty line will lap up what Slack Bay has to offer.

Rating: 6.5/10

Slack Bay is currently in Cinemas.

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