"Moon in the Gutter" couldn't have been funnier if Mel Brooks had directed it, only he didn't and it's a tragedy. Humorless critics at Cannes simply walked out on this dour piece of ooze by new wave director Jean-Jacques Beineix, whose divine "Diva" must have been a fluke.

Gerard Depardieu, who costars with Nastassia Kinski, was publicly disgusted; this film's in the sewer, he said. Indeed, there are many curbside close-ups where the moon shines in the blood of Depardieu's departed sister, whose rape and consequent suicide he's out to avenge. There are low lives a-plenty lurking there.

Through all this comes our girl Kinski, floating through the film as if she were the star of a Mercury Cougar commercial. She pouts in French this film, her first and worst since "Exposed," where she pouted in English. She poses. She preens. She has yet to act.

Depardieu (terrific in "The Return of Martin Guerre") falls in love with Kinski, an uptown girl who likes to soak up squalor now and again. He plays a strapping stevedore who's gotten wind of existentialism and can't quite overcome it. So has the director Beineix, who has also developed a fondness for women's shoes. Not a simple-minded symbol or stupid camera angle passes him by.

In the drivel-instead-of-dialogue department, Beineix waxes ecstatic. "You'll open your heart. You'll see blue skies . . . a highway to the sun. No one is doomed," enthuses Kinski in a moment of sloppy optimism. And Depardieu says, having punched her out for taking his picture, "Life is no picnic." And then he says, "I'm a stevedore. I see things differently than you do." So there.

The plot, with Kinksi trying to take Depardieu away from all this and Depardieu unable to "try a new life" (the film's theme), goes on and on and on. You want to run for it when it's over, for fear it will start up again. And that's with 11 minutes cut out for the American viewers. (The 11 minutes showed a man eating ice.)

And that's not even counting the music, swollen, not swelling, into what composer Gabriel Yared must have imagined were heavenly crescendos when Kinski waltzes in to Scene I. You'd think he was expecting Queen Elizabeth.

The music gets more industrial and goes clanka clanka clanka as the director fixates on muscular dockworkers loading cargo in the holds. Then the moon shines on the ships coming into the berths and we are treated to the seaside equivalent of train and tunnel symbolism.

Me, I'll take my moon over Miami. MOON IN THE GUTTER -- In French with English subtitles, at area theaters.