As if David Lynch made a long-form BBC/PBS police procedural (like BROADCHURCH) set in Northern France*, Bruno Dumont’s remarkable work is strange & compelling, sometimes too much so. Richly textured in scenic wonder & revolting gore, it’s something of litmus test, especially for the casual viewer who may be thrown off by oddities in place, character & crime . . . or simply bored. At its core, it’s a serial-murder police procedural, with the usual eccentric older detective & junior partner hitting the road to get to the latest victim or question likely suspects while handsome coastal views and farmland vistas roll by. Dumont casts non-professionals with ‘local’ features, but behind the bad teeth & facial tics, the two cops might be Chief Insp. Morse & Sgt. Lewis.* Everyone’s something of a mongrel around here (thinning stock?), including Quinquin, a tough, rascally kid with hearing aid & the slightly twisted face of a fixed harelip. Running roughshod with pals around town when not with his surprisingly sweet girlfriend, he’s closer to the grisly crimes than he realizes. The film is as much a portrait of place as of murder, with Dumont finding his rhythm & character eccentricities in the local terroir. (So unlike latter-day Lynch, imposing quirky sensibilities from creator down.) Made to be shown in four parts on tv, the WideScreen images play even better as a single, stand-alone movie. Given the chance to insinuate, there’s odd charm, fascination and a wild humor to it.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *As chief inspector, Bernard Pruvost might be country cousin to classic French character actor Michel Simon.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: *David Lynch usually comes into the conversation on this film. But Dumont is really more Henri-Georges Clouzot (LE CORBEAU/’43) meets Ari Kaurismäki (THE MATCH FACTORY GIRL/’90).