Slack Bay, originally called Ma Loute, is a 2016 French production, directed by Bruno Dumont, starring Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini and young actor Brandon Lavieville as the lead character.
The main plot of the film- or my attempt at describing it- is that in a nice little town in the north of France a series of unusual disappearances occur, with people vanishing without a trace. Ma Loute, the title character, comes from a poor family of mussel pickers who somehow get caught in the middle of this. From this premise a series of very French and very strange situations ensue.
I have spent the past couple of days or so trying to make some sense of what that film was about and all I could come up with is this: the film shows how oblivious the middle classes are as far as the real world is concerned. With their quirks and frailty they are the main source of humour as they always fail to recognise the obvious and can’t seem to behave appropriately in any given situation. Beyond this, things get complicated and I can’t say much without spoiling it. I can only describe the film as one of those very strange pieces of French cinema that are recognisably good, but you can’t tell how exactly. You get unusual situations, funny lines delivered with a flat, dry sense of humour, quirky characters, a lot of falling around and some weird version of French magical realism. Throw in some good ol’ cannibalism, a bit of incest and some gender-bending and you get Slack Bay.
This might sound like a vague review with a mumble jumble of words thrown together, but this is honestly what watching that film felt like. There were times when I felt like I could make sense of what was happening and I could predict the next move only to be taken completely aback by some anticlimactic plot twist. To further add to the confusion, there’s an inspector who gets so fat he starts to float, a very neurotic Juliette Binoche and a family who seem to be on drugs most of the time. The visuals are great, portraying the idyllic French coast, which makes the characters’ actions somehow even stranger. The lack of soundtrack adds to the sense of confusion and you generally feel like you’re watching a great film but you’re missing out on something throughout.
I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the film, because I genuinely did. I always embrace the opportunity to watch a film that is out of the ordinary and breaks the pattern of American, or American-inspired, stories. However, I am still experiencing the confusing feelings of recognising it as a great piece of French cinematography and yet feeling like I don’t want to see it again. My general advice is that you go watch it. But don’t expect the next Amelie. It is more like what would happen if Delicatessen and Le Chien Andalou had a baby.