SLACK BAY, a black comedy in picturesque northern french countryside in 1910. We have been trying to get this film for the past year. It was well received in France and is now finally available in the USA. It’s a misanthropic comedy that features cannibalism, weird religious overtones and a lot of goony pratfalls.
Join us at 5:45 Pot Luck
Diskussion to follow
“His 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.” Resonates so well with my experience. Thank you, all!
“We know what to do, but we do not do.”
“Ma Loute= Slack bay” is probably one of the most transgressive films we have shown among the hundreds of films that we have seen in the past 9 years …
The scenes, the characters, the landscape are jarring, poetically infused images that sometimes are stunning and sometimes mundane…i like non-linear plots and yet with this film i find myself questioning “are this really ? six stories in search of a plot” ???…
stylistically the performances and vignettes are almost independent of each other and yet they follow the same story with twists and turns that sometimes shock me into the WHAT!? disbelieve…it has many complex conceived characters played by daring and very skilled actors that strive to give us some much need it comedic relief…it is played very, very broad and it goes to the limits and sometimes it goes over the limits…Mr. Dumont definetly evokes imagery from such well known sources as: Jacques Tati, Mr. Hulot, Luis Bunel, Laurel and Hardy, Federico Fellini, meanwhile he is presenting us with this family of hardscrabble mussel-harvesters—as well as cannibals who kidnap, kill, and eat some of the bourgeois tourists whom they row across the bay.
The string of disappearances is being investigated by a pair of even more grotesque looking and funny sounding police detectives in black suits and bowler hats— a duo reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy…
It is 35 minutes too long for my taste and it could use some judicious trimming and editing…Bravo Mr. Dumont for daring to do this film…Thank you for being part of the cinematiki which allows us to talk freely about the films right after seeing them when our perceptions are still moist with the dew of our emotions…
with care and Aloha,
what follows is part of the New Yorker review of “Ma Loute”
Then the pompous, wealthy, comedically oblivious Van Peteghem family arrives to take up residence in their splendid summer estate, the Typhonium, perched high on a hillside overlooking the bay. Upon their arrival, Ma Loute carries one of the Van Peteghem girls, Billie, across the shallows—and with their exchange of glances, it’s clearly love at first sight. But their romance is threatened by Billie’s habit of dressing sometimes as a young man, sometimes as a young woman; she explains that she’s a girl dressing as a boy, but she’s also addressed as a boy by her vain and high-strung mother, who, in intimate conversation at home, divulges some of the unusual circumstances (no spoilers here) of Billie’s origins.
“Slack Bay” is a gestural burlesque of passion and rage, of tense manners yielding to furious desires, of carefully constructed appearances warped and rent by the constant and hidden force of the unspeakable, of a society that depends on radically maintained differences and distinctions that don’t hold up against relentless natural forces—and even of a metaphysical sense of wonder that distills the grand peculiarity of the whole crazy scheme into mysteries of a holy absurdity.
“Slack Bay” teems with the eventfulness of a serial compressed into a two-hour movie, and its sense of distillation emerges in the wide range of performance styles that Dumont elicits—and the physical precision that marks each of them. As André Van Peteghem, Dumont cast Fabrice Luchini, whose dialectical extravagance and theatrical exuberance lend his character, a blithering sybaritic fop, the pathos of a physical infirmity matched by the physical comedy of the accident-prone. Aude Van Peteghem (Juliette Binoche) and Isabelle Van Peteghem (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), with their jittery formality, beat vainly around a lifetime of secrets and lies, as Isabelle’s brother, Christian (Jean-Luc Vincent), a high-class misfit, declaims his mantra both loudly and softly, in keenly accented English: “We know what to do, but we do not do.” (The dialogue is full of such felicities, whether whimsical or deeply serious.)
The grimly distrustful isolation of the Brufort clan, born of official contempt and social invisibility, is embodied in the stalwart energy of the real-life father and son, nonactors chosen from the locale, who play the paterfamilias, called the Eternal (Thierry Lavieville), and Ma Loute himself (Brandon Lavieville). Brandon lends Ma Loute a bovine gaze that distills the age-old afflictions of physical labor as well as its soulful power; Dumont gives his actors a poise, a precision, a stillness that heightens their gestural flourishes with a graphic, tragicomic intensity. (For instance, as if in a classic Western, Ma Loute punctuates his yearning glances with a well-timed spit.) And, above all, the pseudonymic actress Raph (also an amateur, chosen from a local high school) plays Billie with a serene and luminous intensity that, in Dumont’s transfiguring vision, burns away the incidentals of circumstance and custom, of the very weight of history, with the pure flame of true love.
Of course, that’s too good to be true. But Dumont exalts his characters and his performers alike, high ideals and raw desires, harsh subsistence and loopy frivolity, the splendors of nature and architectural delights together, in images of such instant revelation that they seem to tear away the screen and deliver his imaginary world as immediate experience. His 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.
The range of tones and moods, like the range of situations, characters, and actors, is so wide, so recklessly self-contradicting, that it turns a tautly crafted local story into a comprehensive vision. Its blend of genres—slapstick and horror, the social drama and the comedy of manners, realism and fantasy—is no mere mashup or collage; Dumont, who is from the region where the film was shot, fuses them with his intimate knowledge of its mysteries and myths to create a cinematic universe of his own.
There’s something special about experienced directors shifting gears and picking up speed. Whether it’s Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee, Terence Davies or Terrence Malick (whose new film, “Song to Song,” premières tonight, at South by Southwest, and opens next Friday), the thrill of self-surpassing artistic innovation, of the rediscovered spirit of youth on the basis of deep experience, highlights the very importance of quantity as an artistic quality. A filmmaker can’t change course without being on a course. That’s why the notion of building a career and a body of work is itself a basic artistic value—and why, when brilliant filmmakers don’t manage to do so, the loss is one for the future as well as for the present.