Rust and Bone – Jacques Audiard (2012)

rustandbone

http://orlandoweekly.com/film/39-rust-and-bone-39-1.1430048

With his new film Rust and Bone, French director Jacques Audiard returns to play in the same sandbox where he created his last film, the intense prison drama A Prophet. You could call them cousins, both films about trying to eke out a life in the margins of society, but Audiard goes about it in a slightly different way here than he did in his previous movie: Unlike Malik in A Prophet, Rust and Bone‘s Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) doesn’t begin the story in the margins; instead she is marginalized by a horrific accident at work, a small miscalculation that leaves her a double amputee. The loss of her legs becomes her movable prison.

Stephanie is a whale trainer and performer in a sea park in the south of France – a place much like SeaWorld here in Orlando. The orcas can be unpredictable, and the difference between a great show and calamity can be measured in inches with such large creatures. In the middle of a routine one day, something goes wrong. One of the whales slides onto the platform incorrectly and brings the whole thing down with him – on top of Stephanie, leaving her afloat in a cold pool of her own blood. There is no blame to apportion, it just happens, but Stephanie’s life will never be the same.

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) meets Stephanie before the accident. He’s an immigrant from Belgium with a 10-year-old son, Sam (Armand Verdure), and he’s always lived life in the margins. He is poor; he crashes on his sister’s couch and works at odd jobs that don’t pay enough to provide for Sam. Ali and Stephanie meet when he is working as a bouncer at a club, where he pulls her out of a fight that she caused, rescuing her from harm. But their places in life are too different for Stephanie to see it as anything but a moment of calculated gallantry. She sees Ali as nothing but a tough guy who she can use to scare her abusive boyfriend.

But she is sunk in depression after her accident, unable to keep a connection to her old life alive. Suddenly, Ali is on her level – or rather, she is suddenly on his level – and the two begin to sort out their shortcomings. For Ali, it’s continuing the tough-guy persona as he reluctantly falls into a bloody back-alley kickboxing circuit, where he excels. The pay for winning is great, providing him with the means to a better life for his son, but the frenzy he builds himself up to for the fights keeps real growth in his life on pause. Stephanie grows, seemingly by force of will, but she also takes some painful steps back as the relationship she has with Ali evolves and plays on the edge between dependency and something more.

I suppose I could be excused for initially feeling somewhat cynical about the film, which, like Monster orThe Reader, seems to be designed less as a film than as a role to give Cotillard a chance at an Oscar run. It didn’t reach that objective – Cotillard was snubbed – but it’s still a compelling character piece framed impeccably by Audiard, whose flair for beautiful imagery comes to the fore here. So it works anyway, even if in spite of itself.

Quick Hits on Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen (2011)

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-I was admittedly extremely nervous about the casting when the list was first released. It was all over the place, and I’ve always struggled with Own Wilson in roles outside of Wes Anderson films, where he, more often than not, has co-written the script with Wes. Even when he hasn’t, Anderson seems to have Wilson’s unique voice emblazoned in his head and always writes fitting roles for his old college buddy. But nerves aside*, I had been excited for this film since I heard the basic time-travelling premise. Not only did Allen deliver on my excitement, he far exceeded it, giving us his best film since 1999’s  Sweet and Lowdown, which is certainly in my top five Woody Allen films.

-The more I think about the film’s thesis (that everyone is actually born in the right decade, whether they want to admit it or not), the more I agree with it. Much like Gil, I’ve always wished I was born in a different time, though what for him was Paris in the 20s, is for me Hollywood in the late 30s/early 40s. But there are problems inherent in that, just like there are problems inherent with the Parisian 20s for Gil. What about the depression? What about the war? What about having to wait 20, 30, 40 years to see my favorite films again? What if I ran into John Ford or Charlie Chaplin? I’ve met some people I idolize in modern times, and Don Mattingly and Jimmy Smits were really the only ones that weren’t in some way a let down. John Ford would certainly be a let down — he was a notorious asshole. I wouldn’t want that to ruin The Informant or How Green Was My Valley for me, which it likely would. But that’s just rambling. What about the lack of air conditioning? What about no Woody Allen?

-All that said, Corey Stoll’s portrayal of Ernest Hemingway absolutely steals the movie. If you’re familiar with Hemingway that is. He talks in long, rambling, Hemingwayesque passages and constantly looks for someone to box with. It’s delicious, but I was the only one in the theater laughing at some of it.

*Woody Allen films tend to make me nervous because I hold him in such high reverence that I don’t want him to fail — I never want to see him make anything as bad as Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Anything Else again — which is probably too slanted a view to go into a film with, but that’s just how my brain has processed it. It doesn’t affect my view of his films really, except that many I’m a little more disappointed when expectations are not met, as they weren’t really met with You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger or Whatever Works.