Rust & Bone / De rouille et d'os
directed by Jacques Audiard; written by Audiard & Thomas Bidegain from a story by Craig Davidson; starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard
|Rust (Matthias Schoenaerts) & Bone (Marion Cotillard)?|
Rust & Bone is, as you might expect, a film of rough textures, though they proliferate more through the emotional volatility in the central relationship than though any visual particulars. Director Jacques Audiard is still in the business of tempering abrasive, down-on-their-luck characters in the French banlieues with a style that smears the poetic and the aggressive into one confrontational melting pot. As with previous pictures Read My Lips and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Audiard embraces his characters as people dominated by darkness and a headstrong physicality. The more positive moments of Rust & Bone are still imagined in corporeal terms – the lusty meeting of damaged bodies, or the rush of memory as Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) re-enacts a routine to Kat Perry’s ‘Firework’ (if nothing else, Audiard has refreshed a song I’d never wanted to hear again).
As rust does, these sensations wear down, although it seems to be part of Audiard’s intention to throw severe miserablism at his audience just to see if they can survive. As the film reaches its second peak of tragedy, the eerie suddenness of Stephanie’s early accident has been replaced by a heavy, inevitable dread, with the crack of disaster impending in the background of one lengthy take. Such momentous foreboding doesn’t lessen the emotional pain, but it does make it feel ever so slightly gratuitous.
Still, such a vibrantly confrontational film with such a charged sense of the physical is a rare thing, and Audiard works to balance the lead performances by Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts between a dark emotional percolation and a keen awareness of their physicality and the relationship of their bodies. Typically, the male is the one with the more willing engagement of the physical – Ali (Schoenaerts) proudly participates in organised fights in a wasteland and engages in casual sex with nameless women – making the camera’s sense of Stephanie’s less frequently engaged physicality all the more heightened. Cotillard is expert at scorching her character’s lust and enhanced sense of her own body onto the screen, and the building frisson between Stephanie and Ali collects less through dialogue (the brisk, careless attitude of Ali puts paid to that) and more through the relation of their bodies and faces.
Rust & Bone is a brutal but sensual portrait of two people learning to exist independently and happily, and demonstrates the value of other damaged people in achieving that goal. It may tilt wildly into grandiose dramatics or viracious sentimentality, but while some of those notes may strike an off chord, they are all part of Audiard’s passionate approach to his narrative, and reflect the beautiful, distorted, uncomfortable mess of a world that these two people inhabit. The rust rubs up against the bone and they spark, hurting but creating fire and feeling.