Piercing character study is one of excellent French filmmaker Jacques Audiard's strengths as a storyteller. In addition, he is immense in the way he cuts through social milieu to the visceral heart of his wounded, mostly realistic characters. Read My Lips, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, A Prophet, and now Rust and Bone, have all offered up palpable characterizations in addition to beautifully burnished surfaces that belie the depths of his undertakings. Almost no other French filmmaker can afford the culpability and clarity with which this artist brings forth his touchable protagonists.
In addition, his grasp of masculinity and French manhood can be startling as well as fresh and complex. With his early film, the Hitchcockian Read My Lips, he offered a female counterpart in the spunky Emmanuelle Devos character to almost balance the pathos of Vincent Cassel's brutal/brutalized con with a conscience. In his new film, the touching and typically tough Rust and Bone, he gifts the astounding Marianne Cotillard one of the strongest roles thus far in her career, as a killer whale trainer named Stephanie, who must live with the repercussions of a near-death experience.
Her chance meeting and eventual love affair with a troubled single father, Alain ( the sublime Matthias Schoenaerts, wonderful earlier this year in Michael Roskam's masterpiece, Bullhead) sets off sparks, and more importantly, opens up both characters to the audience, offering us a glimpse into ourselves in the process. Several plot twists feel a bit generic and/or forced, and yet, Audiard's intrinsic knack as a director makes up for these in the scheme of things. Two truly brilliant performances, a mostly excellent script, and overall the director's mise en scene, wash wawy the minor incosistencies which depend on your individual pov's.
Stephane Fontaine once again wields the camera with a force unforeseen, his palette washed out as the character's exhausted lives. Alexandre Desplat once more waxes a classically lovely score that is both romantic and subtle. While not as collectively powerful as Audiard's transcendent prison crime drama A Prophet, Rust and Bone remains potent proof of its creator's importance as a contemporary voice in world cinema.