Starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Rust and Bone is textural, an intimate kaleidoscope. Its reedy waters and dense yet leafless autumns are reminiscent of Stan Brakhage’s dreamlike haze although the director cited Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter as one of his movie’s aesthetic inspirations. Those two movies, among other visual inspirations, shower pixie dust on the modern world as this new one does. The images here, in its simplicity and honest depiction of contemporary exurban life, should be iconic if the movie-watching world knows where to turn their eyes.
This aesthetic is fitting for such a loose adaptation, fusing strings and pieces of Craig Davidson’s short story collection of the same name. Ali (Schoenaerts) is a manifestation of the broken boxers and bad father figures featured in two stories. His friend Stephanie (Cotillard) is a female version of a whale trainer in another story. And together they mingle and a romance develops, becoming one with the mistreated dogs, nighthawks, sex addicts, old pop songs and other elements of the source material.
I guess it’s not necessary for audiences who want to see this movie to have read the book beforehand, but part of the joy in watching this movie for me is to see when and where the elements from the book pop up. I knew what will happen but the surprise is in questioning when these events will happen. There’s also the fun in how this adaptation will represent it as part of their local fabric. It’s like there’s universality within violence and seediness, that these stories can exist in different parts of the world and in different languages.
The movie but begins with Ali and he figures into the story more. He’s almost an irredeemable character, indifferent towards others and occasionally exploiting them, inadvertently or otherwise. There’s a scene where he shoplifts and runs away from his son who’s just standing there by his lonesome. But it’s also interesting to watch humanity at its depths and how his survival instinct must come first, at the risk of being myopic to the other characters’ needs. His aggression is bursting from the seams. It’s a physically demanding character but Schoenaerts has proven repeatedly that he’s up to the task, despite being closer to being typecast as troglodytes as he was in this year’s Bullhead. That doesn’t mean, however, that his performance overpowers Cotillard’s – in fact, they complement each other. With (or possibly, without) Schoenaerts Cotillard explores dark and tougher sides of herself, stretching her abilities to the greatest.
One last thing, this is an art-y foreign film but I can’t express enough how grubby the world it exposes and how delightfully specific it feels. Ironically or otherwise, it also has made my music more extensively shittier because of the use of Katy Perry’s song Firework that’s more infectious than I expected. Her yelling style of singing actually makes sense within the inspirational parts of this movie. They even use the song twice! And I’m all the happier for it.