Le King Of Comédie. Bruno Dumont’s Slack Bay.
French filmmaker Bruno Dumont’s transition from a director known for deftly serious pictures to master of comedy is amongst the most impressive about-turns in recent cinema.
He’s a filmmaker unafraid of facing convention and expectation, with regards to content and form (in addition to preparing a second four-hour volume to his P’tit Quinquin series his new musical Jeannette has just screened at Cannes), and one that is constantly in a state of reinvention. And yet his work consistently remains recognisably Dumont-ian. Lightheartedness sits only frames away from bleakness, with humour drawn from the most grisly of sources.
His latest theatrical release, Slack Bay, is another impressive piece of work from Dumont. The story of a space that is at once both a playground for the rich and a miserable work opportunity for the poor, Slack Bay is essentially a society comedy in the vein of Jean Renoir’s The Rules Of The Game (albeit one occasionally fused with the macabre likes of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2…).
There’s a rich history of comedy in France (a rich history that I clearly forget about existing when I produced this list just two weeks ago), one that stems from the vaudeville halls of Paris, and spread throughout the 20th Century by filmmakers like Sacha Guitry and Jacques Tati. That Dumont would be the likely heir to this formidable legacy would have been a notion unthinkable just a few short years ago, but here we are.