Monday, May 8, 2017

Slack Bay

What do you do when your next door neighbors turn out to be cannibals?  Besides cannibalism, vertigo, transvestism and incest are just a few of conditions permeating a vacation colony on the French coast at the turn of the last century in Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay. There’s a sand yacht which, if you have never seen one, is a kind of windsurfer on wheels and police inspectors in Magritte like derbies who’re trying to figure out where all the bodies are disappearing. The film Ma Loute in its French version is named after the unruly son of the Brufort family (Brandon Lavieville), fishermen who, when they’re not boiling up the arms and legs of the unfortunates they’ve murdered, carry visitors across mud flats in their arms to earn extra change. At the top of the hill live the Van Peteghems, a wealthy clan with their own set of problems that derive from a mixture of inbreeding and extravagance (they inhabit an Egyptian mansion built in the Ptolemaic style). One of them, Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), suffers from a grating hysteria and the whole clan might be likened to an Edwardian version of the Kardashians. The basic idea is that even the most bizarre forms of human behavior can manifest a veneer of normalcy that cuts across class lines. In this regard Slack Bay exercises a kind of reverse surrealism in which the unthinkable takes on a commonplace air. But where does this grotesque version of Upstairs, Downstairs lead? Dumont’s characters are alternately brutish and arch and the self-consious disquisition is ultimately a little like the film’s landscape—muddy.

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