Slack Bay Screen 24 articles

Slack Bay


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  • Dumont’s direction for the movie stars appears to have been, “start with an absurd caricature of inbred foppishness, then quintuple it, then quintuple that, okay you’re halfway there, now bigger please.” (Meanwhile, the police inspector investigating all the disappearances constitutes the broadest, most shameless series of fat jokes since Chris Farley died.)

  • Despite its starry cast and stunning production values, the period-set Slack Bay seems unlikely to win a vast following either in France – where it’s released simultaneously with its Cannes premiere - or abroad, as its humour is too downright weird and disconcerting. Besides, this knowingly excessive brew of cartoonish knockabout and macabre comedy horror just isn’t that funny.

  • Even though it’s admirably high on eccentric incident, it still comes across like Dumont is replaying the same jokes and motifs over and over with little in the way of basic cohesion. Two hours is made to feel a very long time.

  • Disappointingly, the film feels like someone trying very hard to imitate Li’l Quinquin, pulling off but a pallid counterfeit.

  • One dinner table scene finds characters coming to terms with long-repressed secrets through weirdly revealing jags of crying and laughing. But more often the tone is just too schizophrenic. A late attempt to galvanize all the disparate parts with a supernatural flourish doesn't seem to represent Dumont's usual interest in the consequences of human nature so much as an indifference toward his characters fate.

  • Despite a wonderful use of location—for the bracing, almost confrontative character of Dumont’s best films lay not only in filming the local population but in bringing out the rash beauty and bleak spareness of his countryside—the film’s range of humor is limited and the laughs wane as the same jokes are repeated.

  • It seethes with a loathing of TV costume drama mysteries and wants to be the whoopee cushion that deflates them. It’s full of surreal invention, and gorgeously shot, but you get the sense that Dumont, by letting his top-rank French cast go way OTT, traps himself in a vein of French comedy that’s an acquired taste at best. Had it cared more about the creation of an adventure world with a twist, it could have rivalled Wes Anderson’s films, but I would imagine that’s the last thing Dumont wants.

  • It could be horror, broad comedy or a dramatic treatise on class relations, and ends up being a little of each. The best moments — the Van Peteghems obsequiously marveling at the beauty of the Bruforts (from a safe distance), the mustachioed cops bumbling comically — recall the surreal social satires of Luis Buñuel. While it would be unfair to expect the Slack Bay to live up to Buñuel’s mastery, too much of this picaresque is meandering and frustrating.

  • I’ve somehow followed Dumont's progress the entire way without ever developing much of a feeling for his films beyond an academic appreciation, or finding a way through his philosophical remove—perhaps this is the “ambiguity” that Dumont identified as the key element in his L’Humanité in a 2000 Village Voice interview. The recent addition of out-and-out slapstick shenanigans to his oeuvre only muddies the brackish water further.

  • There has yet to be a more divisive film screened in Cannes so far, but this is not a vision tailored to the art film tastes, especially those who may have held his early work in high regard. Despite a foregrounded progressivism that conspicuously critiques the cretinous frivolity of aristocracy, and while also exhibiting a pronounced sympathy with the transgender community, Slack Bay is chiefly an entertainment geared toward maximal inclusivity.

  • The collaboration between Dumont and his recent cinematographer of choice, Guillaume Deffontaines, pays particularly fruitful dividends, with the director’s immaculate framing and opulent mise-en-scène attracting and maintaining interest even as the humor begins to grow tiresome. Dumont’s dedication to material this singular and out-of-step with current trends is admirable, imbuing the film with a strange allure unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.

  • One the one hand, there is a singular quality to Slack Bay that puts it far above anything else I am liable to see this year. There is simply nothing else like it, even in Dumont's already out-there filmography. On the other hand, the more one looks at this film (or gawks at it, as the case may be), the more evident it becomes that Dumont really does have some rather schematic ideas underpinning the apparent anarchy.

  • Cannibalism may not be everyone's idea of funny, but French director Bruno Dumont (L'Humanité, Hadewijch) elevates it to ghoulish camp in this slapstick skewering of the French bourgeoisie... Dumont tips his hat to Luis Buñuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but this fanciful satire lacks Buñuel's bite.

  • Like a Monty Python send-up of his miniseries Li’l Quinquin, Slack Bay casts Dumont's super serious themes of grace and savagery into a surrealist farce of silly voices and silly walks—a high-pitched, ululating fart of a movie... In subtitles, the dialogue sometimes reads like a mishmash of Popeye, Katzenjammer Kids, and Irwin Corey, though perhaps less funny than that sounds. It all speaks to Dumont’s grotesque sensibility, as a comedy as weird and broad as Slack Bay has its own shock value.

  • It's a remarkable film, yet it’s also hermetic and pat... Slack Bay settles into theoretical redundancy. Dumont hasn’t shaken the nihilism of his past work: His mode of physical abstraction is a sophisticated form of human reduction, a rarefied way of expressing an ordinary sentiment.

  • This is a spirited and often gorgeous film (Guillaume Deffontaines, the cinematographer, makes the eyes of even the most ostensibly unattractive characters supernaturally beautiful), but it’s not an easy one. As it turns out, modes of farce and fantasy enable Mr. Dumont to pull the rug out from under the viewer in a number of new and upsetting ways. Be prepared.

  • It returns [Dumont] to the environs of la Côte d’Opal in northern France where P’tit Quinquin takes place, and redeploys comedic narrative lines that are similar, such as a detective plot with two bumbling officers (locals who are most definitely nordistes with heavy accents) and a story of young love at its centre, suggests a desire to expand his TV experiment into full cinematic form, which he achieves with great aplomb.

  • A follow-up to the unexpectedly popular P’tit Quinquin, Ma Loute recycles the earlier film’s detective framework and bouts of slapstick mayhem, as well as abundantly mining the innate humour generated by the rustic Ch’ti dialect. After establishing himself as a po-faced minimalist with works such as Hadewijch (2009) and Hors Satan (2011), Dumont’s shift to high farce is as unexpected as it is vivifying, and on the back of P’tit Quinquin and Ma Loute, we can only hope it continues.

  • What makes Slack Bay so magical are its surfaces: cinematographer Guillaume Deffontaines’s widescreen compositions conjure up a sun-blind paradise of aquamarine skies and endless horizon lines. The result is a surpassingly serene film about brutality that also offers a modest proposal that reconciliation between rich and poor is possible, provided the elders on either side don’t let their skepticism and resentments swallow them whole.

  • Everyone overacts with comic gusto, and the narrative is deliberately outlandish. This takes place around 1910 and revolves around an upper class clan visiting the countryside, a local family of cannibals, and a pair of inept police inspectors, all of whom interact in unexpected—and frequently garish—ways. There’s little else like it out there, and it once again confirms Dumont’s skill at using cinema as a tool to mess with our heads.

  • Dumont's attention to light, form, and motion is achieved gracefully, seemingly even casually, with an off-kilter spontaneity that matches their emotional fullness. Loud and rowdy comedy and its repetitive antics fuses with quietly transcendent tenderness, a geographical devotion to terrain meets special effects of a simple, irrational sublimity.

  • it’s a riotous farce with tragic dimensions, at once both strenuously ridiculous and deeply felt... The high-test clowning on display is, ultimately, gallows humor, an acknowledgement of the stakes involved, not an attempt to trivialize them. Slack Bay matches Moonrise Kingdom in its evocation of the rushing onset and terror of adolescent first love, but locates it within a history and landscape marinated in poison.

  • If Mr. Bean were to sneeze on a Magritte painting, the result would look something like Slack Bay... Throw in a star-crossed love tale between cannibal son Ma Loute and gender-swapping Van Peteghem teen Billie, plenty of chuckle-worthy body humor, and Binoche’s theatrical hysterics, and you’ve got a French absurdist comedy that feels wholly original, whether it’s your cup of tea or not.

  • The film is almost 90 minutes shorter than P’tit Quinquin but it feels twice as full, with Dumont packing in as much weirdness as possible and pushing his actors to give the most over-the-top and cartoonish turns they can muster.

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