Jacques Audiard

a-prophet

For fans of Jacques Audiard’s (Rust and Bone) 2009 prison drama, Un prophète, news that it’s the next foreign feature in line for an English language remake might not be all that welcome. After something has been done well once, people tend to cringe a bit at the idea of it being attempted again, and possibly not as well. For people who don’t generally watch foreign films, be it because of some ingrained nationalism, or a dislike of dealing with subtitles, or whatever, news of Un Prophète getting an English-language remake should be seen as a cause for celebration though, because it was one of the very best crime films made in the last five years, and everyone should get a chance to see what it has to offer. Why are we even discussing this matter? Because, according to The Wrap, the film is indeed now planned to be given an English-language remake, by Fast & Furious producers Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe.

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What’s the one thing every rundown apartment that a college sophomore is sharing with his five best friends and every $30m mansion that a famous rapper lives in for five months out of the year have in common? The Scarface poster they have framed on the wall in the living room. There are a handful of gangster films that have become modern classics – The Godfather and Goodfellas being the other main two – but in recent years, Brian De Palma’s Scarface has really pulled ahead of the pack when it comes to pop culture relevance and awareness among a younger generation. Which kind of makes sense, seeing as The Godfather and Goodfellas are better-made films that deal with more mature themes and Scarface is the sort of empty, flashy nonsense that would appeal to young people and rappers. Really, at this point, should Scarface even be mentioned in the conversation of great modern gangster movies anymore? It’s got a lot of issues. Jacques Audiard’s 2009 prison epic, Un prophète, isn’t necessarily underrated in the sense that the people who saw it didn’t like it, but it’s underrated in the sense that not nearly enough people, at least in the United States, have seen it. Here we have one of those rare films that is just artsy enough to be respected by film snobs and just entertaining enough to be enjoyed by more casual audiences that it could conceivably become a perennial top contender when it comes to widely agreed […]

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Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone is a beautifully shot film, filled with unexpected turns, raw scenes of bloody violence and emotion, and contains some of the best performances of the year. Based on Craig Davidson’s short story collection of the same name, the film focuses on aimless sometimes-professional fighter Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and his adorable five-year-old son Sam (the gifted Armand Verdure in his film début), who are in somewhat dire straits. Ali has just recently taken responsibility for the boy from his mother (who is never seen) and feeds him from other people’s garbage that he finds on a train they take en route to live with his sister Louise (Céline Sallette). When working as a bouncer at a club one evening, Ali intervenes in a scuffle involving the beautiful Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), who he eventually drives home. She lives with her boyfriend, but Ali still leaves his number in case she ever needs him. As it turns out, she does. Stéphanie is an orca trainer at Marineland and an accident causes her to wake up in a hospital with her two legs amputated. Depressed and alone, she calls Ali on a whim, and the two become deeply intertwined as they suffer through their personal demons and give each other a certain greater purpose. Ali feeds off the violent energy of his bloody, bareknuckle fights, while Stéphanie craves the charge of working with the dangerous orcas, but they are able to satiate certain needs through each other’s company.

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Rust and Bone follows the character of Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) as he tries to make his way through life as best he can. We first see him with his son, Sam (Armand Verdure), on a train, collecting scrap food from receptacles. They’re heading towards his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), who he’s planning to stay with for a while. He ends up getting a job with a security company and has a chance encounter with a woman, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), who trains whales at a water park. There is an accident at the park, and Stephanie ends up losing her legs. The film takes us through Alain’s experiences as he sees all of these relationships through. Alain is a character of much contrivance. He comes off mostly as a drifter with little to his name. His inability to pity Stephanie is what benefits her as we watch her recovery, but at the same time we see him have the same approach to how he handles his relationship with his sister and his five-year-old son. His response to anything he can’t quite control is to lash out at it, with scenes of him shouting and punishing his child. In one moment we see him throw his son across the room, and the child ends up hitting his head on a table. We see so many moments in which he’s being loving and compassionate, but in times when things aren’t good he almost can’t manage to keep being loving.

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Rust and Bone

Here in the U.S. a lot of casual hate gets aimed at the French. The jokes are usually about surrendering during wars, hairy ladies, or what have you—the lame jokes aren’t important—it’s the “what have you done for me lately” attitude they reveal that’s important. Sure, the French gave us the Statue of Liberty all those years ago, but what have those cheese nibblers done for us lately? Turns out, quite a lot. And probably the three best things they’ve given us over the course of the last half decade or so are screenings of Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète, Marion Cotillard’s stunning face, and M83’s stellar last few albums. For these things we should be grateful, and because the trailer for Rust & Bone reveals to us a new Audiard movie that contains both the music of M83 and the luminous face of Cotillard, we should be ecstatic. Pretty music and pretty faces aren’t the only thing Rust & Bone has to offer either, turns out it’s got a pretty crazy-sounding story as well. Though the new trailer for the film is a little abstract, and completely without dialogue, we already know that the plot details the life of a whale trainer (Cotillard) who loses her legs and then falls into a relationship with an underground fighter (Matthias Schoenaerts). Which, you know, is nothing if not unique.

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What is Cannes in 60 Seconds? If you say it with a pompous accent, it’s a hilarious pun on a classic Nic Cage/Angelina Jolie film that no one can rightfully claim is at all terrible. If you say it with a normal accent, it’s still a news and review round-up from the South of France. The biggest news comes from the mouths of critics after seeing the opening night flick – Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom. It’s garnered high, near-universal praise. A smattering of reviews can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. But that’s not all that’s going on:

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Simon has already weighed in on Moonrise Kingdom – his first Cannes film of 2012 – but we check in with him to see what 6 films he’s looking forward to the most. Plus, Movies.com’s Peter Hall faces off against Landon Palmer in the Movies News Pop Quiz, and we end up asking important questions about repertory screenings. Will the films of the future digitally last forever? Download Episode #134

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Rust and Bone could well have failed. In many other hands the story of a killer whale trainer who loses her legs but finds strength and her resurrection in an unlikely relationship with an underworld bare knuckle boxer with a good heart…well, it could have been a monstrous amalgamation of Rocky meets Free Willy with the contrived over-sentimentality of Steel Magnolias. But in the hands of Un Prophet‘s excellent helmer Jacques Audiard, the film swerves the “cancer story”/Oscar baiting stigma that some will accuse it of thanks to a simple but engaging central story and two award-worthy performances from its central actors. Marion Cotillard plays said whale trainer – Stephanie – who loses her legs after a performance accident, and who regresses rapidly to a self-destructive stagnating state, but who finds hope and the capacity for her own resurrection through a relationship with Matthias Schoenaerts‘ bare-knuckle boxer Ali, who lives hand to mouth by any means before his underworld fights offer him and his son some opportunities for a slightly better life. Having briefly met Stephanie before her accident, Alain helps her to find herself again not through pandering or pity, but simply by offering his help and his company, and you have to give credit to Audiard that his story never strays towards saccharine, made-for-TV style sentimentality.

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‘A Prophet,’ a nominee for best foreign language film, is a clichéd but effective prison drama that successfully gets you in its protagonist’s head.

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