In this second instalment, Amir Feshareki tackles Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone, awarded Best Film Prize, as well as a few of the festival's clunkers, Compliance, Hyde Park on Hudson, Crossfire Hurricane, Spike Island and Everyday.
When awarding the Best Film prize, David Hare, esteemed playwright and president of this year’s Official Competition jury, prefaced his presentation with a neat précis of the recipient’s seemingly boundless skill. ‘Jacques Audiard has a unique handwriting,’ began Hare. ‘He is one of only a very small handful of filmmakers in the world who has mastered, and can integrate, every element of the process to one purpose: making, in Rust and Bone, a film full of heart, violence, and love.’
Hare’s tribute to Audiard is revealing. If Wallis writes with her face, then Audiard surely does so with the filmed image, so intrinsic in his makeup it seems when you watch his Rust and Bone (★★★★☆; out 2 November). A melodrama pared from two short stories by cult novelist Craig Davidson, it centres on an unlikely relationship between an orca trainer (a career-best Marion Cotillard) and a single father (Matthias Schoenaerts, whose physicality is a pleasure to watch) formed in the aftermath of a horrific accident.
Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone won Best Film
The sunlight; the sea; close-ups of glistening skin: human and orca; hair; surf; sand; waves; breath; salty tears; faces; noses; napes; folds of skin as inviting as in a Lucian Freud oil painting; sinewy bodies; dirt; dog shit; dust; blood; rust and bone: this is supremely tactile filmmaking, expressive and available, Cotillard’s face perhaps the most essential surface of all.
With it, Audiard has returned to his two grandest conceits. And, with that, he has returned to form. That might seem a strange claim to make when his last film, 2009’s A Prophet, also won the top prize at this very festival.
That film was an undoubtedly good one. But it wasn’t as keenly felt, it wasn’t Audiard on form. I’ve always found him to be most at ease—see also 2002’s Read My Lips, his masterwork—trading with more emotionally audacious material: cultivating it, taming it, or, as is the case here, letting it surge free from the screen.
During its festival screening and at a particularly awesome moment, a woman grew so distressed to the point of a panic attack. Poor thing, was she not warned? Rust and Bone has the full force of nature behind it. It is atavistic. It pummels and bruises you with its third act, only to then soothe and cajole with its parting shot. I felt flush. I’m certain my heart skipped several beats in those final scenes. This rarely happens. That is how I know I was in the presence of something absolute.
The other film of the fortnight to make major waves felt all the way to the back row was Craig Zobel’s audacious and uncompromising Compliance (★★★☆☆). I should know: I was sitting right there, in the last seat before the exit, the expressions on the steady stream of faces leaving in disgust making for a great counterpart to what was happening on screen.
Craig Zobell's Compliance triggered a cinema exodus
I can safely say that I’ve never seen anything like it—or, indeed, an exodus of that scale—in my lifetime of cinema-going. Yes, the setup didn’t work hard enough to render it, a true story, believable.
In the context of the festival’s true clunkers—Roger Michell’s slight and strangely lit Hyde Park on Hudson (★★☆☆☆; out 1 February 2013); Brett Morgen’s inconsequential Rolling Stones cuttings exercise Crossfire Hurricane (★★☆☆☆); Mat Whitecross’s facsimile of the Stone Roses’ defining 1990 gig at Spike Island (★★☆☆☆); Michael Winterbottom’s atonal and altogether too minor Everyday (★★☆☆☆)—this was small fry.
As an entertainment, I found Compliance mesmeric and unnerving; as an anatomy of rape—and of unblinking piety towards authority—a very necessary provocation. Zobel’s next project is a screen adaptation of secondary school syllabus-favourite Z for Zachariah. Somebody, please, think of the children.
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