Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: "Rust and Bone" (De rouille et d'os)

I am working on a few other reviews for films I have seen prior to this one, but I have a strong need to write about this first. 

Once every few years a film will come along that absolutely floors me. We Need to Talk About Kevin was my favourite film of 2011, but it does not fit into the category because I had been waiting to see it for months. The last time I was completely emotionally enamoured with a film was way back in 2009, with Tom Ford's A Single Man. I still get chills when I watch the trailer! Jacques Audiard's French film Rust and Bone (De rouille et d'os) was screened in competition at this years Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palme d'Or. Interestingly, it also features a gorgeously made trailer... and a standout performance from its lead actor. In this case we are talking about Marion Cotillard (thus far nominated for both a Screen Actors Guild award and Golden Globe award for Best Actress). Cotillard won an Academy Award in 2007 for La Vie en Rose (playing Edith Piaf), and I still wonder how she could have won over Julie Christie! I am not a fan of the film or Cotillard's performance. Afterwards, when I finally saw Cotillard in Yann Samuell's 2003 film Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d'enfants), I was fully victim to her charms. She is absolutely stunning in Rust and Bone. Her performance is superlative. In a role that demands an incredible range of emotions, Cotillard delivers the best performance that I have seen so far in 2012. Fortunately, Matthias Schoenaerts' performance as a rough and volatile amateur fighter is equally superb. Together, they create a solid emotional centre that enables the film to be deeply moving and provocative. It stuns me that the same director created the equally provocative - and supremely violent - film A Prophet (Un Prophète) in 2009. The two films have little in common, except for the working class antiheroes at the heart of their stories. Rust and Bone, like In The Bedroom and Monster's Ball in 2001, left me stunned well past the end credits. I still have goose bumps. Marion Cotillard, in one of her most demanding performances, emotionally and physically, delivers what I can truly say is the best single performance I have seen thus far in 2012.

The film's trailer is genius. It reveals very little about the story while drawing you in. I will resist revealing too much about the story. Ali (Schoenaerts), unemployed and struggling to support his five year old son, moves in with his sister (Corinne Masiero) in Antibes, France. Through pure chance, he meets Stéphanie (Cotillard) at a nightclub. Ali leaves his number one day, and when Stéphanie needs a friend, the two begin to form a bond, though neither are able to really understand what is going on between them. The two seem to come from completely different worlds. Ali begins training to become an amateur MMA fighter, while trying to settle his violent temper, and Stéphanie is a whale trainer. Neither Ali nor Stéphanie can grasp the importance of their relationship, and their own stubbornness may cost them their only shot at redemption.

It seems unlikely that Marion Cotillard will go unrewarded when Oscar nominations are revealed on January 10 - unlike a favourite actress of mine last year, in a career-best performance. But she will have stiff competition from Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), both of whom have been winning more than their fair share of critics awards. And she could be up against another of my favourite actresses, Rachel Weisz - albeit in a somewhat terrible film (The Deep Blue Sea). Finally, there is Emmanuelle Riva, whose work in Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning AmourFilm blog Film School Rejects offer a great article on whether or not two French actresses in French-language films can earn Oscar nominations. Rust and Bone is beautifully shot by Jacques Audiard and his team, shooting in Antibes, Paris, northern France, Belgium and Poland, yet without the performances of Cotillard and Schoenaerts, the story would be lost. The film could easily be melodramatic when it wants to be provocative and rooted in reality, and this is what Audiard was able to achieve with A Prophet, which won nine César Awards in France. There is a brutal reality to Audiard's work, which we clearly see through Schoenaerts' portrayal of Ali. What makes Rust and Bone different is the romantic relationship between Ali and Stéphanie, so mesmerizing and frustrating at once. I was very affected by this film and I yearn to watch it again. Rust and Bone is all but guaranteed a prominent role in my top films of 2012.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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