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September 04, 2012

Rust and Bone

Rust_and_boneA tour de force by any standard, Jacques Audiard’s convention-breaking romantic drama is one more example of how French filmic storytelling rises above the fray of Hollywood’s forced efforts. Co-writer-director Audiard (notable for his unforgettable 2009 film “A Prophet”), meticulously examines a complex love story between Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), a single father who boxes in an underground circuit in Cannes, and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer at a waterpark park who loses her legs in a freak accident involving one of the giant creatures. Matthias Schoenaerts (fresh off his vibrant performance in “Bullhead”) makes for an empathetic anti-hero in spite of, and due to, his character’s honest but guarded nature. The film’s thought-provoking title evokes the strange compatibility linking Alain and Stephanie, two unlikely lovers who develop a unique romantic bond. The consistently persuasive Marion Cotillard plays her character’s layers of vulnerability, lust, and emotional need with a humble conviction that is nothing short of astonishing.

Based on a novel by Craig Davidson, “Rust and Bone” is an in-depth character study that never telegraphs its motivations. The provocative sexual component of the couple’s relationship helps the drama earn its stripes. Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine (d.p. on “The Next Three Days’) uses documentary techniques to keep the compositions fresh. Likewise, Juliette Welfling’s editing never misses a beat. Look for “Rust and Bone” to be a contender for a foreign entry at the Oscars.

Rated R. 115 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

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