Slack Bay


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Slack Bay
"The humour falls almost as flat as the inflatable policeman." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Imagine a Buñuel-esque black comedy set against a stunning background of the north coast of France (close to Calais and director Bruno Dumont’s home patch). Then mix in topics such as cannibalism and class divisions, spice liberally with knockabout comedy, a flying inflatable policeman and other such delights and you have an approximation of this would-be Pythonesque mish-mash.

Dumont who made the TV mini-series L’il Quinquin in 2014 in the same neck of the woods (which also had a cinema outing) seems, after years of austere dramas, to have acquired a taste for comedy.

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The problem with Slack Bay is that the humour falls almost as flat as the inflatable policeman. Rather than being coherent it ends up simply as an exercise in the bizarre although not without its moments to treasure.

He focusses on the clash between the impoverished locals ekeing out a living on the mussel beds and ferrying visitors across the varous shallow inlets and the upper class incomers in their finery and with a haughty sense of their own importance.

The Van Peteghem family comprises André (Fabrice Luchini) and Isabelle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) as husband and wife, Juliette Binoche as André's sister Aude, as well as their assorted brood of children who holiday in an Egyptian-style, concrete-covered mansion called The Typhonium with uninterrupted views over the coast.

Dumont allows them all to over-act like crazy (not entirely inappropriately) with Luchini indulging in silly walks and Tedeschi going gaga over the scenery and the quaint habits of the natives. These include feasting on human flesh and generally disparaging the incomers.

The bumbling coppers (like a Laurel and Hardy double act and played by Didier Despres and Cyril Rigaux) come on the scene to investigate some strange disappearances and provide a connection between the warring classes.

Dumont has found some wonderful character actors to etch the locals including Thierry Lavieville as the skipper of the lifeboat and father of Ma Loute (Brandon Lavieville), a scowling teen who strikes up a friendship one of the girls who dresses some of the time as a boy.

Once you get over the novelty of the goings-on it begins to pall rather quickly, indicating that Dumont has some way to go before he nails the art of comedy.

Reviewed on: 14 May 2016
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Period comedy, set in 1910, about the investigation into disappearances from beaches in France.
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Read more Slack Bay reviews:

Anne-Katrin Titze *****

Director: Bruno Dumont

Writer: Bruno Dumont

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Juliette Binoche, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Thierry Lavieville, Jean-Luc Vincent, Didier Desprès, Raph, Laura Dupré, Brandon Lavieville, Cyril Rigaux, Angélique Vergara

Year: 2016

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: Germany, France

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