At the Cannes Film Festival press conference for Dumont’s offbeat comedy “Slack Bay” Friday, Dumont was asked whether shooting multiple projects set entirely in Northern France — where he’s from — might have a negative impact on the universality of his stories and how they’re appreciated by audiences in other countries. Dumont responded that directors should shoot movies where they live, adding that he doesn’t think it’s possible to film men and women as truly “universal” beings.
On the surface, describing “Slack Bay” as a universal movie sounds like a tough sell. The bizarre, surreal story of two families from very different social classes thrust together on France’s Channel Coast in 1910 has everything from murder to incest to cannibalism. A “crazy story” in Dumont’s own words, the film still manages to offer some clear political and philosophical messages about wealth and the problematic combination of the idle rich and working class. Did we mention it’s also a love story?
This unique combination of ingredients were one of the reasons distributor Kino Lorber bought the film sight unseen, Kino Lorber President Richard Lorber told IndieWire in a previous interview. Lorber, who previously released Dumont’s “Flanders” and “Humanité,” said Dumont’s track record, hilarious screenplay for “Slack Bay” and commitment from actress Juliette Binoche were enough to give him the confidence to acquire the film without seeing it.
For Binoche, who plays the exaggerated and hopelessly bourgeois character of Aude Van Peteghem —and who previously starred in Dumont’s 2013 drama “Camille Claudel 1915” — one of the pleasures of working with Dumont is having the opportunity to act in a movie that takes the genres of comedy and thriller and blends them with truly bizarre elements.
“During shooting, we weren’t quite sure where we were going to go,” Binoche said. [Dumont] just pushed me to create this sense of tension and malaise and madness within the family…It was great.” Fabrice Luchini, who plays Binoche’s brother, André, added that as an actor working in a Dumont film, you shouldn’t try to understand what’s going on in the story.
“Nothing looks real [and] he’s not seeking anything accurate in reality,” he said. “You musn’t feel scared to be in something that could be really bad — you just have to accept it.”
Asked whether some of the outrageous aspects of the movie were inspired by carnivals, Dumont once again brought the conversation back to Northern France, and the carnivals he attended as a child.
“It’s a real tradition in the north,” he said. “What we try to do often is to look at the grotesque side of things.”
Check out the trailer for Cannes competition entry “Julieta,” embedded below: