Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 September 2012

Telluride at Dartmouth #3

Last night's movie was called Rust and Bone and it will not be France's official selection for the Foreign Language Oscar. The film in competition will be Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano's Intouchables.

And, frankly, who cares, because Rust and Bone is an excellent picture, no matter what kind of crowdpleaser the French Film Academy selects.

What is important for you to know is that the Jacques Audiard – the director of Un Prophète, Sur Mes Lèvres, and De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté – has made another tough-as-nails picture about working-class people trying to make their way in a world that doesn't want them to succeed. Rust and Bone is about a pugilist with a young son and his affair with a woman who trains killer whales in a Sea-World-like theme park.

The boxer is played by the awesome Matthias Schoenaerts (who was in Bullhead from earlier this year and whose praises I've been singing), and the orca-trainer is played by Marion Cotillard.

Rust and Bone is a plot-heavy drama, filled with reversals, and knowing nothing about the movie, I was constantly surprised by what happened as the film moved forward. I don't think Rust and Bone is quite as extraordinary of a picture as Un Prophète, but Audiard is an excellent storyteller, and he loves his characters, even when they make terrible decisions.

Audiard's films are also always concerned with class and with the material situation of his characters. They do what they do because of the tight financial constraints placed upon them and he never lets an audience forget that about his characters.

I don't want to spoil anything about the plot, so I'll be quiet about what happens, but I can say with confidence that both Schoenaerts and Cotillard are superb in Rust and Bone. Cotillard proves, again, that she is a serious actor that demands attention, and Schoenaerts is plainly an actor who is here to stay. Bullhead was not a flash-in-the-pan performance. This guy is fantastic.