A couple of years ago, my Top 10 list was headed by a remarkable film called “A Prophet,” directed with ingenuity by Jacques Audiard. The thing was put together like a fine watch, yet had a certain fluid flexibility to it, too.
Audiard’s next movie is here, and it’s also ingenious and flexible. Slightly weird, too.
In “Rust and Bone,” we meet two very different people whose lives cross. Alain, played by Belgian hunk Matthias Schoenaerts, is a multiple loser who takes his neglected kid to the south of France so they can sponge off his sister for a while.
While working as a bouncer at a nightclub, he meets an unhappy young woman, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). She’s clearly above his station, and they don’t see each other again, until something shocking changes Stephanie’s life.
This gets into the weird zone. She works at Marineland with performing killer whales, and her legs are severed at the knees in an accident during a show.
The remainder of the film is about the tentative friendship — or maybe it’s a social partnership — that emerges between these two drifting souls. Neither is immediately likable, but that’s one of the things that Audiard is interested in exploring.
Audiard’s seemingly haphazard style, with its roaming camera and sometimes random behavior (Stephanie defiantly gets bold tattoos that run along her thighs), catches a mood around these people. They are on the margins of the world, sidelined, and pretty thoroughly lost.
And so they gravitate toward each other. Stephanie even becomes something of a business manager for the violent underground fighting that the irresponsible Alain is involved in. And that gravitation keeps us interested, even if these two people are not ingratiating.
The film doesn’t hold together as well as “A Prophet,” and it doesn’t have that movie’s urgency. Here, Audiard is in more of a daydream mood.
He is aided by the two stars. Schoenaerts has been proposed as a future Hollywood star, and if his English is good, he’s got it made. At the very least, he looks like he could take Channing Tatum in an arm-wrestling contest without breaking a sweat.
As I write this, I don’t know whether Marion Cotillard has bagged an Oscar nomination for her role, but the odds are with her. You will recall that she won for “La Vie en Rose,” and she brings her usual focus to this role. (Her missing limbs come courtesy of digital technology.)
If “Rust and Bone” falters at times, it does sustain its sunny, drowsy atmosphere. And watching these two actors becomes justification in itself, whether or not Oscar agrees.
“Rust and Bone”
Two very different people, both on the margins of society, form an odd sort of social partnership in this daydream film from “A Prophet” director Jacques Audiard. The movie lacks a certain urgency, but Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are well cast. In French, with English subtitles.
Rated: R for nudity, subject matter.
Showing: Harvard Exit.