Starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts. In French with English subtitles. Rated 18A. Opens Friday, December 21, at the International Village Cinemas
Rust and Bone is both the best film of 2012 and one of the most extraordinary literary adaptations of all time. It is freely derived from a collection of stories of the same name, originally published by St. Catherine’s, Ontario, native Craig Davidson in 2005.
Although barely out of his mid-thirties, Davidson already bids fair to being considered the Ernest Hemingway of the 21st century, thanks to his patented formula of grace under pressure plus steroids plus a less misogynistic form of machismo. His universe is as physical as that of this film’s French director, Jacques Audiard, and his usual cowriter, Thomas Bidegain. Although they change the sex of one protagonist and double the degree of damage she suffers, the filmmakers excel at transferring North American obsessions to the south of France.
At first glance, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) would seem to have little in common. Due to a lack of education and employment opportunities, he sinks into the netherworld of extreme fighting. Although her beginnings are probably sunnier, Stépahanie’s nightmare is still worse, because she loses both legs in an accident at Marineland d’Antibes. Yet a strong bond gradually develops between these unlikely lovers who are united by the fact that they both live primarily through their bodies, not their minds. And if the culture of poverty in which he grew up causes Ali to sometimes behave in a strange fashion towards those around him, Stéphanie’s socialization process seems to have been equally bizarre.
Because of its radical originality, Rust and Bone is not a film you are likely to compare to other movies. Instead, in the fullness of time, other movies will most likely be compared to it.