Cannes 2012 Review: Jacques Audiard's Raw, Emotional 'Rust & Bone'
by Alex Billington
May 17, 2012
Jacques Audiard has quickly become one of my favorite directors. I first fell in love with his work a few years back seeing Un Prophete at Cannes (my review), which should've won the Palme d'Or. Audiard is back again this year with his follow-up called Rust & Bone (aka De rouille et d'os). This emotional drama tells of a melancholic love story between two lost souls, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (most recently seen in the Oscar nominated film Bullhead) and French actress Marion Cotillard (last in Inception, Midnight in Paris and Contagion). It's openly raw and lascivious, but doesn't quite reach the heights of Un Prophete.
The film first introduces us to Ali, played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, a phenomenal actor on the rise who is on his way to breaking out way beyond just Europe with performances like this. Ali doesn't have much in his life besides his young son, and heads to the south of France to live with his sister and work security/bouncer jobs. We then meet Stéphanie, played by Marion Cotillard, who works as an orca whale trainer at Marineland (similar to Sea World). When an accident that leaves her disabled, and depressed, the two meet by chance and start a relationship that is unlike any relationship I've seen, which is what makes it so fascinating to watch, especially as captured by Audiard (and his cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine).
There's just something about the way Jacques Audiard tells stories, and crafts characters, that is fresh and invigorating to watch. His use of score and music, while not overbearing but used to enhance many scenes, is perfect. He has extraordinary restraint with portions of the story and gives us more intimate, emotional moments instead. All of this, plus the two amazing lead performances themselves, improve the characters even more, and make them as compelling to watch as some of the best characters in film history. Even if they're a bit dark, depressing, and neglectful, it's still a raw portrait of two very real people falling in love.
One of the more climatic scenes occurs early on, an accident that leaves Stéphanie severely disabled. While watching it this morning, putting the pieces together in my mind as it occurred, I didn't seem to like the way it was handled. But it wasn't until I started reflecting back on it that I realized how impressive it really was. How Audiard's restraint and what exactly he chooses to show the audience is all part of the brilliance behind the storytelling, and the characterization, letting us follow along and make the discoveries with Stéphanie and Ali. It's just one example of Audiard's astute filmmaking sensibilities, and one of the many reasons I love him and his work, and why I've come to like Rust & Bone so much thinking more about it afterwards.
Rust & Bone has an interesting ebb and flow to its intensity and drama, its emotion and pacing, and while it does feel a bit overlong, that's not to say it's anything less than amazing. I won't say it necessarily reaches the heights of Un Prophete, but it's as close as it can get, with as much heart and as much passion. Both Schoenaerts and Cotillard give genuinely awards-worthy performances, especially Cotillard, as you'll find out as soon as you discover what she has to go through in it. Though Schoenaerts, having recently watched Bullhead as well, is also becoming one of my favorite actors, certainly one to watch out for in any film. Audiard has done it again. Rust & Bone is great, and my thoughts are still lingering on many of its scenes.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 9 out of 10