Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bressonian Comedy Fail

Slack Bay/Ma Loute (2016) - Dumont
Dumont does Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie? Known for his austere films about human conditions or religious faith being tested, Dumont, hailing from Northern France, sets Slack Bay in Channel Coast, just like in most of his films. So how do I feel about Dumont doing comedy... I quietly bailed out on his 4 part TV series Lil' Quin Quin. I found its weird sets of characters (played by non-actors, true to Dumont tradition) coming across as extremely inauthentic, opposite of his dramas. He does another all-out comedy here, but this time with big French movie stars pitted against another set of weird looking non-actors.

The Van Peteghems, (Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) with their two daughters are vacationing on the coast in their 'Egyption style' mansion, overlooking a picturesque bay consist of sand dunes and cliffs. They are soon joined by Aude (Juliette Binoche), M. Peteghem's sister with her tomboy daughter/son Billie (stunning newcomer Raph) and mentally challenged Christian (Jean-Luc Vincent), Mme. Peteghem's brother. Down below, the Bruforts, a long faced hearty fisherman clan live, making extra pennies by carrying visitors (man and woman) across the channel in their arms slogging through knee deep water- I guess rich doesn't want their clothes wet? People have been disappearing in the bay and Laurel and Hardy of a bumbling police inspectors are dispatched to solve the mystery. Just like the police in Lil' Quin Quin, the duo in Slack Bay are also extremely inept and disarmingly peculiar in their behavior and mannerisms.

The thing is, it's really uncomfortable to see all these esteemed actors acting grossly over the top characters- Luchini slurrs his lines in his hunchback posture, Tedeschi is overly hysterical, Binoche's acting, with rolling eyes and over-exaggerated faint spells, can only be described as camp.

Yes, the notion of 'Eat the rich' is literally fulfilled in Slack Bay. The Van Peteghems are nothing but snotty nosed inbreds. But Dumont doesn't show how the Bruforts are any better. There is a scene where Ma Loute Brufort (Brandon Lavieville) brutally beating Billie after he finds out she is a he. I find that very disturbing. The faces of Dumont's Bruegel-esque non-actors worked to his advantage to ground his films firmly on the ground. With well known actors acting like retards in Slack Bay, it loses grip on its reality and floats away like the obese police inspector does in the movie.

M. Dumont, you've proven that your Bressonian filmmaking doesn't work on comedies. Can you go back to searing dramas now?

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