The latest surreal creation of a director normally best known for the seriousness and mature subject matter of his movies, Slack Bay is a very mixed bag. French filmmaker Bruno Dumont’s attempt at a slapstick period comedy is a far cry from his darker, earlier works, but still maintains its own special kind of nightmarishness, offering up a bizarre tale of coastal crime, class conflict, cannibalism and bourgeois vacationing.
It is the summer of 1910 and the grubby, impoverished Brufort family are busy scraping mussels by the water’s edge. To make ends meet, they also provide a “ferrying” service to wealthier visitors holidaying in the area. But all is not what it seems in the pretty and charming Slack Bay. Two amusingly inept Laurel and Hardy-type detectives arrive wearing black suits and bowler hats, claiming to be investigating the mysterious disappearances of numerous tourists. The two bumbling, cartoonish officers are clearly not intellectually equipped to be working a potential homicide case. Early on, Dumont makes it apparent to us that the Brufort family are to blame for the missing sightseers – and it looks like they have been eating them.
Next, the peculiar upper-class Van Peteghem family are introduced. We learn that their intriguing gender-fluid teen Billie has formed a controversial relationship with the gaunt, lanky Brufort son known as Ma Loute. The contrasting families are consequently forced together, with the camp and eccentric Van Peteghem family woefully unaware of the Brufort’s secret man-eating habits. Will they be next?
Slack Bay’s gorgeous cinematography, picturesque setting and eye-catching production design and costuming make it a feast for the eyes. However, many other aspects of the film may leave viewers queasy. Despite its evidently high budget and star-studded French cast, Slack Bay’s overtly theatrical and extraneous characters with their, at times, painfully flamboyant and overblown deliveries make many scenes feel truly cringe-worthy. Featuring the likes of Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi, these totally unrefined and exaggerated performances are strange to see coming from actors of such high pedigree. Regardless of whether viewers find them hysterical or unbearable to watch, Dumont’s highly unconventional Slack Bay is an experience that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
Slack Bay is released nationwide on 16th June 2017.
Watch the trailer for Slack Bay here: