The centennial anniversary of the breaking of WWI was an opportunity for several books to be written and films to be made (most of them documentaries) not only about the war itself, but also about the years that preceded it. Those were the finals years of a period that had started at the end of the Franco – Prussian war in 1870 and had seen a period of more than four decades of peace, never encountered in the written history of Europe. For many people living it those times La Belle Epoque seemed to signal an apparent stability based on the balance between the power of a few Empires and Republics. A middle class appeared in Europe allowing for economic development, arts flourished, and life was good for many. Yet, the political tensions were present at the level of the relations between the big powers in Europe, and many of the national societies were sick. Which is exactly the theme of ‘s film ‘Ma Loute’.

 

source http://collider.com/ma-loute-slack-bay-review-cannes-2016/

source http://collider.com/ma-loute-slack-bay-review-cannes-2016/

 

Dumont is one of the masters of a cinema sub-genre which I will call ‘films about degenerated people’ (or social, or family relations, or a combination of these). and  ‘s Delicatessen is another example of the genre, so is Dogtooth by Greek director . ‘Ma Loute’ not only takes the genre one step ahead because of the quality of the execution, but also provides political and historical dimensions by locating the story of mysterious disappearances, social conflict between the rich tourists and the poor fishermen and a love story which is impossible for many reasons in a precise place – the North-West of France close to Calais and time – the end of La Belle Epoque.

 

(video source S. Ü.)

 

Viewers should be warned that this is no easy film to watch. 5% of the audience walked out the theater I was in. Among those who stayed I suspect that half disliked what they have seen, with the negative reactions between considering the theme disgusting to ridiculous. The acting style is also very heavily and intentionally exaggerated. It is the description of sick families, of hateful relations between classes, of a non-functional society at all levels. The fact that all these seem to get some rational explanation may satisfy for a moment, but then the film slides in a combination of grotesque and fantastic (the levitation scenes) that is close to genial. Watching fine actors as , ,or   is of course a delight but do not expect them to act like in any other movies that you have seen with them in the past. The young couple acted by and both at their first film add some level of innocence, but all is under the sign of the deformed mirrors here.

‘Ma Louche’ is a very different kind of cinema experience, viewers take risks watching it, and they are rewarded with a surprise which according to taste and approach can be very good or very unpleasant.