Savannah: “Rust and Bone” (*****)

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Marion Cotillard stars in “Rust & Bone”

With films like “The Beat That My Heart Skipped” and “A Prophet” under his belt, Jacques Audiard has climbed to the top of the heap. In my eyes, his latest effort has cemented his status as the best French filmmaker currently on the scene. “Rust and Bone” is at once both a whisper and a shout; a visceral and violent study on the bonds between physical and emotional damage. Marion Cotillard, who has already proven her power many times over, gives us yet another tremendous performance. While he’s not as famous a face or name, Cotillard’s co-star, Matthias Schoenaerts, is himself a roaring tempest worthy of equal acclaim.

Neither Cotillard or Schoenaerts can be mentioned without the other, joining “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Amour” as films dependent on the tenor between the two romantic leads. Different from “Playbook” and “Amour,” however, is the chemistry. In many films, good chemistry acts as a mediating third character and serves as a central focus. “Rust and Bone” showcases the disparity between our leads, Stephanie and Ali, in virtually every aspect of their lives. Their relationship becomes an oasis in the deserts of their worlds apart coexistence. Their entrancing chemistry acts in the opposite manner of a romantic comedy; examining an interdependency rather than a codependency.

We are used to seeing the French Riviera serve as a much more glamorous backdrop than we see here. At times, it almost appears washed out and bereft of the rich, warm colors to which we’ve become accustomed. Audiard and cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, a frequent collaborator, manage to use the blues of the Marineland tank, the Mediterranean Sea and Cotillard’s magnetic eyes as a current for powerful emotion. Audiard also employs an unexpected pop soundtrack that features the likes of Bon Iver, Lykke Li and Katy Perry. While you might never have wanted to hear Perry’s “Firework” ever again, you certainly won’t ever hear it the same way after you experience its use here.

“Rust and Bone” uses few words, but runs deep with a sense of impulse, strong themes, striking visuals and two of the year’s best performances. The chemistry between Cotillard and Schoenaerts is as obvious as their good looks. Audiard has made a heart-breaking— heart-destroying, rather— but coolly beautiful film.

5 out of 5 stars.

“Rust and Bone” played at the 2012 Savannah Film Festival and opens in Atlanta on January 11th, 2013.

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