Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone is amputee porn in the guise of a French art film. Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of Stephanie the femme fatale of the movie is so powerfully disingenuous that she actually succeeds in creating the ersatz emotion that lies at the heart of soft core movies. Rust and Bone is in love with itself and keeps doing what it knows best again and again. Not content with equating physical and emotional wounds, it slips away from metaphor by having its knight in shining armor Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) end up with his hands in castes that mirror the disfigurement his lover Stephanie endures when she’s attacked by a whale earlier in the film. Sex and disability is a profound theme if for no other reason than the fact that even those who don’t suffer from literal disabilities are for one reason or another disabled. It’s a theme whose sensitive treatment in The Sessions shows that it can be handled in a complex manner that avoids turning love scenes into a side show. Most commercial films have an arena. For instance in Wall Street, it’s obviously the stock market. Rust and Bone is Jaws, Rocky and Saturday Night Fever all rolled into one. You have a girl who works at the French equivalent of Sea World, who hangs out in a disco (where her predicament is heavy handedly foreshadowed in a violent interchange early on) and whose savior is a taller version of Sylvester Stallone who practices a particularly grueling form of bare-fisted mixed martial arts. At one point, Stephanie now on prosthetic limbs shows up at one of Alain’s fights and steps in as his manager. The maiming never ceases and Alain’s son Sam (Armand Verdure) who actually bears some resemblance to the youthful McCauley Culkin almost falls victim to his father’s fighting and carousing when he’s left “home alone” one time too many in the film’s stultifyingly mawkish denouement.

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