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20th Chicago European Union Film Festival (March 3-31, 2017), Report No. 2 (SLACK BAY and THE UNKNOWN GIRL)

What's on this week at the 20th Chicago European Union Film Festival? For the full slate, head to the Gene Siskel Film Center's website at Here are two not to miss.  

Bruno Dumont's SLACK BAY (France, 2016) (Saturday, March 11th at 4pm and Thursday, March 16th at 6pm)

If "dark" and "sick" aren't pejorative adjectives for you, then you'll likely have a blast with this mad, bracing satire. Bruno Dumont's welcome turn to comedy continues in the deadpan vein of LI'L QUINQUIN, but ratcheting up the slapstick. Thus, the usual Dumont horrors are here, but in the service of laughs. An uncouth family living hand-to-mouth on the northern coast of France circa 1910 picks up extra change by carrying rich vacationers across the bay. Among the brood is jug-eared young "Ma Loute" (Brandon Lavieville) a shy, taciturn, seething lad. They collide with an astounding family of oblivious, inbred upperclass twits on their annual holiday, who consider them quite picturesque, with a kind of condescending, touristic admiration. Alas, the bay is plagued by the mysterious disappearances of holidayers. (Word of warning: "Who wants more foot?" is a line of dialogue here.) Not to worry: two extremely silly inspectors are on the case--the intrepid Machin and Malfoy (portrayed, respectively, by Didier Després, as bloated as Monty Python's Mr. Creosote, and Cyril Rigaux). Meanwhile, Ma Loute enters into an inter-class romance with androgynous Billie (Raph), who self-identifies as a cross-dressing girl, though her loopy mother seems uncertain. She's played by Juliette Binoche, having a tremendous amount of fun. (I knew she could do anything, but I didn't know she could work this broad). I won't soon forget Fabrice Luchini as Binoche's dimwitted, hunchbacked brother, or Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as his equally clueless wife. Cineastes will enjoy spotting homages to Fellini aplenty amid Dumont's typically extraordinary faces and landscapes. (122 min, DCP Digital widescreen) 

For this week's CINE-FILE Chicago, I wrote about the Dardenne Brothers new film THE UNKNOWN GIRL, playing Sunday, March 12th at 3pm and Wednesday, March 15th at 6pm. An honest movie, it is also (at least by my lights) more of a roller coaster than most big budget entertainments. My writeup is here under the "European Union Film Festival" section.  

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