Friday, 16 November 2012

Rust and Bone, dir. Jacques Audiard, wr. Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, st. Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts

If nothing else, Rust and Bone gives us, in Matthias Schoenaerts' bare-knuckled fighter Ali, a protagonist as richly complex as he is apathetic - a grade-A fuck-up, bestowed with wildly fluctuating parenting skills, and endowed with a blunt honesty which skates along that threshold between douchedom and refreshing honesty. Having absconded from his life with his addict girlfriend, Ali and his son find themselves at the door of his sister Anna and her boyfriend Foued, grateful for the free post-sell-by date yoghurt Anna liberates from the supermarket where she works, a beat-up old moped, and a roof over their heads - a stable environment which promises something of a new start. He gets a job at a security firm working as a nightclub bouncer (thanks to his background in boxing) and intervenes in a bar-fight, picking up a bruised and bloodied Stéphanie (Cotillard) from the floor, a precursory act to the more figurative way his valour will save her as the film progresses. After a terrible accident at the waterpark where Stéphanie works as a whale-trainer, the pair strike up a relationship - of sorts - for his lack of grace and consideration pauses for no-one, no matter how serious their trauma. In fact, weirdly, the casual nature of their partnership is just what Stéphanie needs, a sharp reminder that it's the small things that anchor us during desolation, even if those things are the everyday hurts and pains of human interaction. It's definitely a play of two halves, as the film shifts from Stéphanie's story to Ali, and his knuckle-headed but oddly sensible decision to play to his strengths and discover employment as a back-alley street-fighter. Audiard even shoots his leads in different modes; Cotillard is allowed glorious, sun-drenched close-ups of her un-made-up face, awash with the resignation of out-pained exhaustion, whilst almost the only insight we get into Schoenaerts state of mind is through the serious of physical blows he throws, and shadowy poses he strikes. It's almost like the camera, like Ali himself, finds it difficult to settle and focus; Ali. unlike Stéphanie, is almost always moving, a frenetic, kinetic flurry of motion, activity and purpose that is at odds with his inability to see a greater holistic vision for him and his son. Restrained and emotionally sincere (if not perhaps a touch contrived in its narrative), and with a commanding performance by Cotillard, Rust and Bone is a surely a shoo-in for Oscar contention given its subject matter and low-key production stylings, but it's also beautifully effective in its portrayal of un-algorithmable relationships, and how and why they function; this is a depiction of love not shouted from the rooftops, but kept suppressed, quietly blossoming in the soul.