Rust and Bone

You are watching a masterpiece! With the first shot of Rust and Bone, French director Jacques Audiard establishes the tone of his new film. Trying to set the bar high, the opening credits look like a video clip or a perfume commercial. While they aim at letting spectators know they are watching a complex, rich and deep oeuvre, they instead warn the audience they are in presence of a fine piece of machinery rather than some well-crafted work.

On paper, the filmmaker, basking in the critical and commercial success of A prophet, has all the ingredients to make another landmark movie. First, the story: a tragedy, an accident, an encounter between two people from two radically different worlds, a love story that begins and the theme of illegal families struggling to survive. Then there are the characters: a sensitive, naïve and muscular Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), plus a crippled Stephanie (Marion Cotillard – La Vie en Rose, The Dark Knight Rises) in a role that seems destined for awards. Finally, there is this finely staged direction, where each camera movement seems to have been extensively planned, supported by a sophisticated cinematography.

Even the premise seems to announce a masterpiece: We are told this is a loose adaptation of Craig Davidson’s short stories, Mr Audiard making this work his own by changing both the setting and characters. It’s almost like the filmmaker was trying to make his own Apocalypse Now, using the writer’s novels as his Heart of Darkness.

Unfortunately, everything here looks too good to be true. While Mr. Audiard has all the ingredients needed to make a great film, each shot looks too calculated.

From the beginning, the director tries to gain our trust and make us follow him blindly, using the Stephanie’s legs as a vehicle. More metaphors will follow. The man who will help Stephanie come back to life will prove to have an animal side just like those orcas responsible for her injury. As a result, the mechanisms of the relationship between Alain and Stephanie will be similar to the connection she had with the orcas – the first time they meet, she even let him carry her in the water the same way she would work with her orcas.

While the filmmaker emphasizes the differences between the two characters at the beginning, everything seems clearly to happen to make them unsurprisingly closer and give them the chance for a new start – Mr. Audiard even offers us a realistic and naïve sex scene to symbolize this new beginning.

Pain and handicap are also used to represent the social themes of this film, whether it’s the struggle of the lower-class, the depiction of a ruthless world or the apparent refusal of pathos and sentimentality.

By trying to seduce spectators and capture them in his world, the French director however fails at delivering a masterpiece, his efforts being seen as a dishonest – narrative and visual –attempt to manipulate emotions. The directors seems to get lost in his own tricks, somewhat lacking a simplicity that could have bring some greatness into his creation. Rust and Bone proves to be more annoying than seductive, the arrogance of its ambitions sinking it it from start to finish.

Director: Jacques Audiard – Actors: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts – Running time: 1:55 – Year: 2012 – Country: France

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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