Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os)

  • Reviewed by: Joe Marchese
  • Review Date: Jun 13, 2013
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Jacques Audiard

Release Date(s)

2012 (March 19, 2013)

Studio(s)

Sony Pictures Classics (Sony)

Review

Last year’s Silver Linings Playbook received a great deal of critical acclaim for its unflinching portrayal of two emotionally damaged people finding love on their own terms.  But it wasn’t the year’s only visceral, realistic relationship drama anchored by two sensational leading performances.  The French drama Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) is more contemplative than Silver Linings, and near its end, even adopts a fairy-tale quality.  Recently released on Blu-ray, Rust and Bone is a journey well worth taking.

Director Jacques Audiard’s film tells the story of Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) and Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), known as Ali.  They must overcome tragic circumstances and emotional obstacles to find love.  The film opens with Ali moving from Belgium with his five-year old son Sam (Armand Verdue) to live with his sister Louise (Celine Sallette) and her husband in France.  But we find that the move to France is prompted by Sam’s mother using him as a drug mule.  An ex-boxer, Ali soon finds work as a bouncer at a local club where he meets Stephanie and rescues her from a fight.  He drives her home but the two do not seem to have much of a connection.  We then begin to follow Stephanie’s story and learn that she is an orca trainer at Marineland, a local marine park.  An accident occurs during a show which leads to her legs having to be amputated.  Depressed and struggling, she reaches out to Ali.  The two begin to spend time together and go swimming often.  Ali soon begins to take part in underground fights and takes Stephanie to watch.  The two seem to grow closer as Stephanie comes to grip with her new circumstances and comes to life again.  She wants something deeper with Ali, but he resists commitment.  Even after they begin a sexual relationship he continues to see other women.  It’s not until near-tragedy strikes that he can express his feelings.  This unusual relationship is the beating heart of Rust and Bone.

Directed and co-written by Jacques Audiard (2009’s Oscar-nominated A Prophet) Rust and Bone has both a realistic and expressionistic touch.  There are shocking moments of violence but they are usually captured in silence.  Indeed, silence plays a large part in the film as there are many mostly wordless sequences, usually at the beginning of scenes.  Accordingly, music is kept to a minimum, with only a few pop songs present along with a small helping of Alexandre Desplat’s evocative score.  (At one point, Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” is filtered through a French perspective when a remixed version is played over a montage of Stephanie becoming more involved in Ali’s street fighting.)  The silence contributes to the unsettling atmosphere.  It’s worth noting that, on the supplementary features, the filmmakers say they were influence by Tod Browning (Dracula, Freaks) and the horror films of the 1930s.  That influence isn’t overt, but some of the uncomfortable sequences here could be suggestive of those earlier films.

The performances of Cotillard and Schoenarts cement Rust and Bone.  The relationship between the two is quite believable.  Cotillard was nominated for several awards for the part and the nominations were deserved.  We see the anguish when she learns that she has lost her legs and follow her into depression, rooting for her as she makes a slow recovery over the length of the film.  She is complemented very well by Schoenarts who must make the audience like a character who is quite unpleasant through much of the film.  He is inattentive and even abusive to his son, not to mention emotionally distant from Stephanie.  But, underneath all of that, you see someone who is trying to better himself and a person who does care about the people around him, albeit in his own way.  Rust and Bone affectingly leaves the audience rooting even for him.

The supplements on the Blu-ray aren’t the most generous, but they do give a solid behind-the-scenes look at the film.  There is a commentary track from Audiard, his co-writer Thomas Bidegard, and Arnaud Calistri, a journalist.  It covers many facets of the film’s creation and is definitely worth a listen.  The BD also includes is an hour-long documentary by Antonin Peretjatko.  The documentary is a fascinating look into the thoughts and process of the creators.  Much of it is just raw footage of them filming certain scenes with voiceover.  It also goes into the subtle visual effects work in the film.  There were more effects in Rust and Bone than one might expect – mainly in order to make Cotillard’s legs realistically appear to be amputated.  The documentary also goes into the issues surrounding filming the marine-themed sequences.  Despite those assets, it’s rather dry and technical at times, and there’s isn’t any perspective offered by the actors.  Audiard and Bidegard are the sole interview subjects.  The only comments we hear from the cast are during a short featurette about the film’s premiere at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival.  The other bonus material consists of several short deleted scenes which don’t add very much, a short effects reel and a trailer.

The transfer on the Blu-ray is clear and crisp.  The film appears in near-reference quality despite being photographed on video.  There are occasional contrast issues particularly with the color black, but these minor imperfections are far from distracting.  The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Both dialogue and music sound quite good, with vivid clarity.  The soundscape is immersive and places the viewer in the middle of the movie.  The film is presented in French with English subtitles.

Rust and Bone bravely depicts the unique love between two wounded people.  This contemplative and engaging film speaks with its own voice, and it’s one you’ll want to hear on this exemplary new Blu-ray.

- Joe Marchese

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