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Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone

Cannes 2012: Moonrise Kingdom, Rust and Bone

Wes Anderson and Jacques Audiard kick off the fest with high expectations

By David Fear

You can accuse the Cannes Film Festival of many, many things, but you certainly can’t take it to task for insufficiently loving wonky, individualistic auteurs. As the capo du tutti capi of world-cinema hoedowns, Cannes prides itself on giving prime programming real estate to filmmakers with singular—sometimes sensationalistic, often head-scratching—sensibilities. (The Cannes brass has gone on record saying one of their goals is to establish a directorial pantheon.) Occasionally, as with last year’s opening-night selection, Midnight in Paris, they can trot out camera-ready stars and showcase a genuine artist who stumbles into a career-high hit. But accessibility isn’t a high priority on the Croisette; for every competition film that stumbles into profitable popularity, there will be a half dozen willfully idiosyncratic entries that will start numerous arguments by the press mailboxes.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Cannes Film Festival

The 65th edition’s starter film, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, probably won’t inspire the box office tsunami or mainstream fervor that Woody’s Excellent Gallic Adventure did after it was released. But the latest from the Kubrick of quirk has already gained a legion of fans following its premiere yesterday, with Twitter pundits panting over the film’s retro-zooms, hat-tipping homages and OCD bric-a-brac fetishes. A tale of young misfits in love spiced with zealous Boy Scout shenanigans and a faded Kodachrome look—it’s the Hipstamatic movie of the year—Anderson’s all-star ode to prepubescent precociousness is his least fussy movie in years, while still being a formalist’s wet dream. It should also do for actor Kara Hayward what its spiritual cousin, Rushmore, did for Jason Schwartzman. (The latter plays a dodgy scoutmaster who runs a black-market supplies ring; apparently, Max Fischer has put his DIY ambitiousness to good use.)

I don’t want to say too much about the movie, as our own Keith Uhlich will be posting a long review when Moonrise Kingdom comes out next week. Suffice to say, Anderson loves him some French films—especially Truffaut and Malle, if this tender, ragged riff on l’amour fou is any indication—and Cannes’s decision to open the festival with this particular movie makes sense from a programming perspective. They get to fill a red carpet with camera-friendly celebrities and champion someone who sticks to a doggedly personal vision, even if said vision sometimes seems like it's in danger of trapping its creator like a fossil in amber. Plus ça change…

Even before this year’s Cannes kicked off, there was a lot of chatter about having to live up to last year’s accolade-heavy, awards-pacesetting lineup, and if there would be a game-changer like The Artist in the official -selections ranks. Whether that’s a possibility or not will become more apparent over the next week, though it can be said that the festival has already given us one title that’s jury-rigged for Oscar attention in the fall. Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone starts by introducing us to a down-on-his-luck dad (Bullhead’s Matthias Schoenaerts) who gets by with amateur fighting bouts and part-time club bouncing. He ends up rescuing a drunken, depressed damsel in distress (Marion Cotillard) from a scuffle; the fact that we first see her as a pair of legs splayed on the ground is telling, given that an accident at her marine-park job training killer whales will end up costing the young woman her lower limbs.

Savvy viewers will suspect that, after a brief bout of Kings Row histrionics, a journey of healing will begin, and this charitable brute will help our amputee heroine learn to deal with her situation. Audiard lets his story skew that way for a bit, and the movie’s combination of Brakhagey visual touches and disease-of-the-week could mislead folks into thinking they’d stumbled into a lyrical look at liberation through disability: call it The Diving Belle and the Bruiser-fly. (Even if the melodrama began and ended there, you’d still get to enjoy the most unexpectedly pathos-filled use of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” ever.) Then the movie starts to zero in on this violent, volatile male, and we see that Rust and Bone is actually a dual portrait of damaged souls trying to pick up the pieces of shitty, but not unsalvageable, lives.

As anyone who saw the exemplary prison parable A Prophet can attest, Audiard has a knack for using genre conventions as a starting point, as well as an eye for creating genuinely lyrical moments: the legless Cotillard swimming in the sea (special effects seem to have improved since the days of Forrest Gump), her reunion with her favorite orca as the two reenact their old routines. They also know Audiard's damned near peerless when it comes to working with actors, and the performances he gets out of Cotillard’s disabled trainer (see earlier Oscar mention) and Schoenaerts add nuances to Rust and Bone that keep it from soaping itself into irrelevance; every half smile, sexual parry and awkward moment of gentleness seems finely tuned but not overly prepared. A late-act tragedy is as nightmarish as it is plot-convenient, and if you listen closely, you can hear the creaking in the film’s final stretch. But its way of turning both gritty Euro-humanism cinema and triumph-of-the-human-spirit stories on their ears is compelling. It is ugly and beautiful, unpredictable, unsparing, moving, enlightening, personal and divisive, and features both famous faces and graphic paraplegic sex. In other words, it’s a textbook Cannes film.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear


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