Friday, January 25, 2013


French-born filmmaker Jacques Audiard is best known for his stylish thrillers. His last film was the Oscar nominee A Prophet, a jazzy, yet often brutal crime melodrama about a young Muslim man coming of age inside a French prison. But Audiard's engrossing new film, Rust and Bone, is a departure. While it percolates with suspense, even dread, it's not exactly a thriller, and the love story that slowly wends its way to the surface avoids the trappings of conventional romance for something darker, deeper, and ultimately more satisfying.

Its protagonist, Ali (the excellent Matthias Schoenaerts), is a man on the run from his home in Belgium with his five-year-old son. Hitchhiking, then taking a train, scavenging food that other passengers have left behind, or stealing from a busy MacDonald's, they are on their way to Ali's sister and her truck-driver husband in the French beachfront resort town of Cap d'Antibes. Some mention is made in passing that Ali's wife was using their little boy in a drug-smuggling enterprise, so he's come to France to get a new start.

We get the feeling that, like most of his impulses, Ali's move to France has not been well thought-out. While working as a bouncer, Ali meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), who trains killer whales at the local Marineland park.

Cotillard's wonderful portrait of a woman who decides to be fearless is well partnered by Schoenaerts' tough-tender Ali; theirs is an intricate, delicate mating dance that fuels this dynamic film. (Read complete review in this week's Good Times.)

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