Slack Bay: the burlesque whimsy of Bruno Dumont

Film still of Ma loute (Slack Bay) © R. Arpajou (c) 3B

Two years after the tornado that was L'il Quinquin, the director plunges into a burlesque social comedy and whisks us back to 1910 in France's northern Pas-de-Calais region – the scene of a whimsical love affair set against a background of mysterious disappearances.

Previously known for the spiritualistic undertones of his films, Bruno Dumont wrong-footed expectations in 2013 with L'il Quinquin, a delightfully entertaining comedy mini-series. The critical success of his cop thriller set among the northerners in France encouraged the director to plough this furrow still further, this time with a burlesque film bubbling over with genres taken to extremes.
With this return to the Opal Coast, Dumont brings us a love story between Ma Loute Brufort, the son of fisherfolk reputed to be cannibals and Billie Van Peteghem, an androgynous woman from a decadent middle-class family.

The director deliberately loosened his actors' tongues, setting the film alight with a series of dialogues each more absurd than the last, sending up the middle classes. The comic power of Slack Bay also draws on the physicality of its actors, aided (or not) by the setting of the film, in which the weather and landscapes only caricature the effect of their actions.

“I exaggerate things to the point of being grotesque.”

"I exaggerate things to the point of being grotesque, in search of a sort of catharsis that cinema seems to have lost, when it comes to pure entertainment," says the director.

Dumont brings us a film full of pell-mell antics, inspired by period postcards from back in the day. The director, who shot Slack Bay in just 45 days, initially thought of making the film in black and white in order to capture their original graininess.

Slack Bay features a host of established French actors, including Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. A first for Dumont, who had never before used professional actors apart from in Camille Claudel 1915 (2013), featuring the very same Juliette Binoche.