Jacques Audiard‘s newest film, Rust and Bone, is an emotional tale of two people – one, an ex-boxer and father who moved to the south of France from Belgium, and the other a whale trainer at something like France’s Seaworld.
The film centers around these two people’s lives and their interactions, and how they effect each other. They meet when he has a short-lived job as a bouncer and he has to take her home after she gets beat up in a fight. The next time they see each other, she has no legs because a whale bit them off. They slowly become closer, but he keeps her at somewhat of an arm’s length despite being a warm and positive influence for her. Eventually she comes to his illegal fights and provides some sort of moral support, before turning into something like a manager for him. In turn, he gets her back into the world after her accident, and helps her overcome her insecurities (sexual ones in particular stand out).
The film’s aesthetic style is very similar to Audiard’s previous film, A Prophet, but does not have the same focus or grit. Most of the shots are close-ups, creating a sense of immediacy, with many spectacular photographic moments, but the style does not always seem to lend itself to the story. The music as well is often oppressive and emotionally abusive – there are some moments when it is poignant, but often it seemed a bit Hollywood, with some musical montages of painful modern pop music.
In plot form, its use of ellipses is noteworthy. We are taken very quickly from one point in time to another with no introduction, from one state of the two main characters’ relationships to another completely different state with very little explanation. It creates a sense of the relative longevity of time, and there is very little exposition to belittle this sense.
The acting is great. Marion Cotillard, perhaps the most famous contemporary French actrice in the US for her work in films such as La Vie en Rose, Taxi, and Inception, is spectacular. She performed with great subtlety and quiet intensity, and those who see this film for her performance alone will not be disappointed; the make-up is, by the way, so convincing that often I wondered if they actually cut off Cotillard’s legs for this performance. Matthias Schoenaerts, as the troubled boxer, is also fantastic, especially as we watch his emotional progress from a rage-filled escapist to being forced to feel the emotions he runs from.
Overall it is worth a viewing, especially if you are fond of the director (as I am) and the actors.
The film opens in San Francisco on December 21st at the Embarcadero Theatre and Sundance Kabuki.