Rust and Bone

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Mattias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure
Directed by: Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”)
Written by:  Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”) and Thomas Bidegain (“A Prophet”)

As 2013 continues to parade out its less than stellar early year films, the yearly trend of late releases from 2012  (mostly independent and foreign language) continue to trickle into art house theaters. In the French language “Rust and Bone,” Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard (“La vie en rose”) plays a killer-whale trainer who is involved in a tragic accident that brings her together with a former fighter turned odd job worker (Mattias Schoenaerts) who is focusing to keep his life together after his young son has abruptly entered his life.

Both of the lead performances in “Rust and Bone” are top notch. Schoenaerts, who is likely to be largely unknown to American audiences, turns in a solid, albeit subtle performance. He’s able to deliver lines with ease and bring a strong sense of emotion when the role calls for it. The true star of the film is Cotillard. In playing someone who has just undergone a traumatic injury, Cotillard is brilliant at emoting sadness. There is so much pain behind her gazes and stares in the scenes where it appears as if she has just given up. It’s a very bold performance in which she could have very easily slid into an Oscar nomination.

The most impressive element of “Rust and Bone” has to be the direction from Jacques Audiard. While perhaps not reaching the epic proportions of his 2009 Oscar nominated film “A Prophet,” Audiard brings his very unique style and elevates everything from the screenplay forward. Audiard has a certain way of keeping a film grounded and having a keen eye for the raw sensibilities of things. Scenes in which there is both physical and emotional grit and squalor are shown without pulling any punches. Along with that, Audiard can also be visually mesmerizing such as the portions of the film involving the killer whales, both prior to and after her accident. Along with that, Audiard is able to keep the narrative driving forward, ultimately introducing new wrinkles into an already complex relationship. Without question, “Rust and Bone” is one of the best-directed films of the year.

As a whole, the construction of “Rust and Bone” is quite simple. It’s a character study about two people who have been crippled both emotionally and physically. The narrative, while strong enough to keep the film moving, is ultimately secondary to watching a fascinating, but strange relationship go through trials and tribulations. Along with Audiard and without divulging too many details integral to the plot, major kudos need to be given to the special effects team for their amazing work in the film. France chose the very good and extremely crowdpleasing “The Intouchables” as their Best Foreign Language film submission and ultimately did not receive a nomination. Although the lack of a nomination for Cotillard’s performance is perhaps telling, one wonders if France would have had better luck submitting the stronger, but more alienating film.

A Prophet

April 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif
Directed by: Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”)
Written by: Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”)

It’s a bold move to go as far as comparing anything to “The Godfather,” but in terms of direction and thematic elements France’s “A Prophet” (“Un Prophete”) might just astonish you. There is a power and poetic essence that makes this film an extremely effective addition to the crime-drama genre.

If you’ve seen director Jacques Audiard’s prior film, 2005’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” the talent behind the camera is evident. Both “Heart” and “A Prophet” won the Céasar Award for Best Film, France’s version of an Academy Award. “A Prophet” was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category last month.

While not on the same epic scale as Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece, Audiard does have a unique vision that makes “A Prophet” brim with grim realism and compelling emotion. The film tells the story of Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim in a star-making performance), an illiterate 19-year-old kid of Arab and Corsican descent, who is sentenced to six years in prison for assaulting a police officer. Once incarcerated, the boyish Malik quickly becomes part of prison politics when he is recruited by a Corsican gang headed by the heartless César Luciani (the fantastic Niels Arestrup).

Presented with an ultimatum he can’t refuse (murder a fellow inmate who is about to testify against the gang and receive protection or die), Malik is stripped of his innocence and slowly begins his transformation into the type of man he never thought he could become.

As Malik, Rahim is simply brilliant as he realizes the decisions that he makes to be forced into a gang will change him forever. His vulnerability is short-lived. Malik is made well aware that to survive behind the prison walls he must be both respected and feared. The evolution is very reminiscent of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, who doesn’t consider himself a vital part of the family business. After his first brutal kill, however, there is no turning back. Like Michael, Malik is aware of the responsibility he has taken on.

It doesn’t take long to be mesmerized by Audiard’s rich storytelling. Complete with realistic violence and tightly-wound characters that are ready to pop at any given second, “A Prophet” is beyond essential viewing. There is a primitive ambiance behind this picture that makes it both disturbing and awe-inspiring. For every intensely-built scene presented, “A Prophet” slices through each one like a razor.