3 April 2021

Bruno Dumont's Ma Loute | Slack Bay (2016)

Ma Loute is a film set at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was released between Dumont's Quinquin and Coincoin, and has surprisingly similar elements, although the appearance of the comfortable family, the Van Peteghems, is a marked difference. This film takes place in the usual Côte d'Opale area in Ambleteuse and Audresselles, although the Van Peteghem holiday home (of which only the exterior of the actual neo-Egyptian Ptolemaic house appears on screen) is a little further north in Wissant: the villa is in fact Le Typhonium.

André (Fabrice Luchini) is the insufferable idiot patriarch of the family, along with his wife Isabelle (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and André's cousin Aude (Juliette Binoche). Also present in the area is the Brufort family, who live in a nearby slum, hunt mussels and either carry people over the water or row tourists about for a few pennies.

Ever present are inspector of police Machin (Didier Despres), who is so fat that he frequently falls over and rolls down the sand and has to be stood upright again by his slim assistant Malfoy (Cyril Rigaux): yes, they're of the same ilk as the bumbling cops in Quinquin and Coincoin, and also of course of Laurel and Hardy. They're there to investigate a number of murders that have been committed in the proximity, and of course they'll never discover the obvious: that the Bruforts are killing them to eat.

Add an improbable romance between the transvestite Billy (Ralph) Van Peteghem and young 'Ma Loute' Brufort, finish on a note of Machin floating away like a balloon and you have something that might be expected of the director of Quinquin, but not the director of Dumont's previous Bressonian films. Wonderfully absurd.

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