Posts Tagged ‘Marion Cotillard’

French director Jacques Audiard came to international prominence with his film A Beat That My Heart Skipped and furthered his reputation with 2009’s A Prophet, which topped many an end of year list. Both of those films shared Audiard’s customary documentary-style observation and moments of flair, with strong central performances depicting seedy and flawed existences. Romain Duris and Tahar Rahim both played characters wrapped up in the darkness of the underworld, fighting to escape, in Duris’ case, or flourish, in Rahim’s.

His sixth feature, Rust and Bone, follows in a similar vein. Based on author Craig Davidson’s short story, the film revolves around Alain’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) tumultuous relationship with Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). Both of these characters find themselves at the fringes of society; Alain is a no-nonsense tough guy, floating from job to job while trying to care for his young son, while Stephanie’s life as a whale trainer has been swept away by a freak accident that leaves her an amputee. Through a chance meeting, the odd couple find each other and discover solace in their existence as society’s underdogs.

Rust and Bone is not a typical romance story. There are moments of brutality, and the whole film is injected with a raw, frayed undertone. Alain, for his part, seems only able to express himself through aggression. He can only control his young son through mild threat and criticism, and with Stephanie, his love interest, he is only capable of bluntness rather than tenderness. He only really comes alive when he is reunited with his past career as a kick boxer, but this time in rural locales with illegal betting. After one swift fight in which he dismisses an opponent, he careers off into a run in order to burn up the remaining aggression in himself.

Stephanie is a much more grounded individual; a steady job as a trainer in a local water park attraction, she seems to revel in her alternate existence in the water. Like Romain Duris’ piano playing in ABTMHS or Alain’s fighting, Stephanie’s escape is the water. When she finds this life taken away from her, she struggles to adapt to everyday existence as an amputee. She is a much more sensitive, humane person than Alain, but finds his matter of fact talk comforting when she finds herself in a sensitive situation. By this point in the story, they both need each other. Will Stephanie ever be able to tame Alain though? That is the active question that Audiard leaves us with.

Like his previous films, Audiard’s latest is characterised by the towering central performances. Schoenaerts is uncompromisingly lunk headed and thuggish, but still retains a flawed humanity. His physicality is frightening, and he remains a constant source of threat. Cotillard is superb as the emotionally and physically wounded Stephanie. She has the emotional range to exhibit the hurt of isolation and need, without resorting to hysterics. With much of her Hollywood work she has seemed uncomfortable and displaced, and this film questions whether she would be much better served working in her native country.

Although there are a few nicely composed images in this film, it is strange that Audiard is often noted as a stylist. His work appears much more in line with the observational documentary style of  Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers (both of whom focus on marginalised characters). There are moments of flair in the choreographed fights and pop soundtrack, but overall this is a gritty, raw piece of work driven by flawed characters and their arcs.

Rust and Bone is a punchy, gutsy character drama with superb performances. The relationship between the two players is both original and touching, offbeat and uncompromising. Audiard makes the audience believe in something initially far fetched and grips us all the way to the denouement. It falls a little short of his two previous films, particularly A Prophet, perhaps because it is missing the sense of epic scale that that prison drama had. While Alain has a distinctive arc, Stephanie’s is less certain.

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As this review was published following the release of The Dark Knight Rises we would first and foremost like to express our sympathies to all of those affected by the Aurora premier tragedy.

Returning to the Batman franchise for the final time Christopher Nolan offers up The Dark Knight Rises. Dredging the emotional depths of Batman Begins and blending in the thrills of The Dark Knight, Batman’s final stand is a muscular epic, which successfully pulls its own monumental weight.

Bruce Wayne/Batman’s (Christian Bale) story picks up eight years after his battle with The Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight. Grief stricken at the loss of his sweetheart Rachel Dawes, Wayne has abandoned his playboy reputation and become a mythic recluse to the people of Gotham. When terror attacks rock Gotham Wayne considers revisiting the Bat suit, but his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) fears Wayne’s own self-destructive tendencies may lead him to defeat.

Alfred Hitchcock once said “the better the villain, the better the film”. Christopher Nolan’s challenge for The Dark Knight Rises was to apply Hitchcock’s theory, in the shadow of Ledger’s show stealing Joker. This time Nolan opts for muscular terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), a criminal mastermind constantly pumped with a strength serum via an intimidating facemask. He is a considerable threat to the fragile Wayne, with a deep-seated conviction against Gotham’s culture of corruption. He plans to nuke Gotham city and wipe the slate clean.

While lacking some of the infectious charisma of Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane is wholly compelling. Hardy personifies the character with bulging muscles and an air of worldly wisdom: he is well spoken, yet he phrases with an accent inspired by Traveller and bare-knuckle boxer Bartley Gorman. Hardy’s Bane is an odd proposition, but he is a convincingly vengeful outsider; this makes him all the more dangerous to tattered billionaire Bruce Wayne.

As well as staple characters like Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred, Nolan introduces other characters to ultimately explore Batman’s scarred psyche. Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) challenges Batman to delve deeper inside himself to fight Bane. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stands out as a young cop who revitalises Batman’s responsibilities. Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) exploits the corporate weakness of Wayne Enterprises’, while Wayne entrusts the seductive Miranda (Marion Cotillard) to look after his interests.

But all is not perfect upon Nolan’s return to Gotham. In spite of the film’s apocalyptic intentions, there is a sense that it has been heavily toned done to achieve the 12A rating. When Bane and Batman brawl we expect serious bloodshed, but the fight scenes feel unmistakably muted making Batman’s peril less immediate. The script also sidesteps some serious logical concerns, in favour of narrative pace, and key characters are given fatally insufficient screen time for the same reason.

Another aspect that leaves an empty feeling is the complete lack of The Joker. While the character need not have appeared portrayed by another actor, many references to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight occur in flashback; Heath Ledger’s Joker should have too. The character made a sincere impression on Batman and we feel his presence, but cannot acknowledge it.

In spite of its flaws however, The Dark Knight Rises is a true cinematic accomplishment. Christopher Nolan has graced us with a mature blockbuster with a majestic scale reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Nolan has also achieved the essential with this film: he has returned the resonance to Bruce Wayne and to Batman. The Dark Knight’s ironic flaw was that the villain ultimately undermined the hero. With The Dark Knight Rises Batman sincerely captures our hearts and minds like he never has before.

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