Social critique and comedy on Bruno Dumont's Cannes menu

Fri May 13, 2016 2:11pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

CANNES, France (Reuters) - French director Bruno Dumont, whose extravagant comedy "Ma Loute" (Slack Bay) premieres at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, is once again using his beloved northern France to deliver a caustic social critique.

On France's northern coast during the Belle Epoque era leading up to World War One, a family of mussel harvesters prey on the rich who spend their holidays by the Cote d'Opale.

Among those rich are the Van Peteghem family - decadent, inbred and stupid.

A link is made between the two by the love story between Ma Loute, the elder son of the mussel-harvesters who also help the rich cross the bay -- eating a few of them in the process -- and the gender-fluid Billie van Peteghem.

The disappearance of several people is being investigated by two detectives, Laurel and Hardy style as Dumont instils comedy in his cinema after the dark "L'Humanite" and "The Life of Jesus".

While the mussel-harvesters and Billie are played by non-professional actors, the Van Peteghems are played by seasoned French actors including Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche.

"I had been wanting to stay within drama for a while but there I opened the floodgates and I realized that comedy is really close to drama, it's a substitute for drama. Comedy is like a scale that goes up and down," Dumont told a news conference.

The audience experiences the film as a carnival in northern France, where people cross-dress and mock the powerful.   Continued...

Director Bruno Dumont gestures as he attends a news conference for the film "Ma Loute" (Slack Bay) in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau