Rust and Bone (Sony Pictures Classics, R)

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film rust_smMarion Cotillard’s performance is as good as you’ve heard, and among her best, which is saying something for an actress of her stature.

 

 

film rust_lg

There’s a certain type of filmmaker, usually European (for reasons I can’t quite explain), who, regardless of if any given movie of theirs is good, is really satisfying. It’s sort of the theatrical equivalent of finishing a beloved novel: when you come out of the theater, even if you didn’t much like the film, it’s hard not to think, “Yes! I just watched a movie.” It sounds stupid, but I bet you know what I mean. Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar is probably the best example of this phenomenon, though a new addition to the list is France’s Jacques Audiard.

Audiard has been on French cinephiles’ radars since his career began, given that he is the son of Michel Audiard, a celebrated French screenwriter with over 100 credits to his name. And while all of Jacques’ films have been of interest, he really established himself as someone to pay attention to with 2009’s A Prophet, which earned many comparisons to The Godfather. Now, Audiard’s newest film, Rust and Bone, arrives on our shores, teaming him with the justly internationally acclaimed Marion Cotillard, as well as the up-and-coming Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, the lead in last year’s Oscar-nominated Bullhead.

Everything that I said about Audiard’s films being fulfilling can be applied to Cotillard as an actress—even in the rare case I don’t like a movie she’s in, she’s without exception great in them—and with Schoenaerts being the exciting actor that he is, this collaboration between the major artists of the film is a promising one indeed. The main character is really Schoenaerts’ Ali, who at the beginning of the film takes his young son, Sam (Armand Verdure), and moves in with his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), who is suspicious of Ali and his ability to raise a son. As well she should be: Ali has something of a violent past, is unreliable, and makes most of his money from participating in very brutal street fights. Cotillard’s Stéphanie appears a little ways into the film, as a woman Ali meets at a bar. Stéphanie has a live-in boyfriend, but she and Ali form a shaky alliance. The meat of the film comes when Stéphanie suffers an accident at her job, where she trains killer whales for a Sea World-like amusement park.

At the risk of being vague, there are special effects related to Stéphanie’s incident (and probably not in the way that you’re guessing) that are just incredibly well done, and totally seamless. I saw Rust and Bone at its St. Louis International Film Festival screening two months ago, where a couple behind me thought that they weren’t special effects at all, but the real thing. I think a lot of people would, too, if Cotillard weren’t such a well-known actress. (She’s been in the last two Christopher Nolan films, for fuck’s sake.) And while it’s worth going to Rust & Bone for the special effects, it’s also worth going for a number of other things. Cotillard’s performance is as good as you’ve heard, and among her best, which is saying something for an actress of her stature. But really, the best reason I can give you to see this movie is one that’s already come up: Rust and Bone is about as all-around satisfying a movie as you can hope to see these days. | Pete Timmermann

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