Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

“Rust and Bone”

Marion Cotillard, among the great actors of the age, digs down to the truth of a tragic and inspiring role.

By - Jan 17th, 2013 12:27 am
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Marion Cotillard and Matthais Schoenhaerts star in “Rust and Bone,” opening this weekend at the Oriental Theater. Photos courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

Some performances in film and on stage are so good, so extraordinary, so brave, so fully realized, so fully human – and in being fully human, heroic – that they almost defy comment. Marion Cotillard, co-star of Rust and Bone, is the first name that comes to my mind. It may be the only one. And that may be because she played such a remarkable, brave, fully realized and heroic artist in the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose; and she did us, and the ‘Sparrow’, the honor of becoming her and not just acting. One of the great and inspirational songs that was and is Piaf’s theme song is “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” or “No, I Regret Nothing.”

Well, I do regret a few things, more than is entirely healthy, probably. One is that I will never get a chance to work with Marion Cotillard. She is an actress of such courage, such visible emotion, such psychological strength, and such incandescent beauty that, for an actor – which is still what I am and what I do – it would be a great, great honor to stand near her, to hear her, to see the work happen, to feel the warmth of that flame.

But I’ve gushed enough.

In Rust and Bone, Marion Cotillard plays Stephanie, a young woman who works for a Sea World-type organization in the south of France. She lives with a man named Simon, likes to dance, goes to clubs by herself, gets a little drunk, has fun, and doesn’t put up with a lot of stuff and nonsense from anybody.

She works with the killer whales, the orcas.  She runs the show. One orca gets out of control – it is intentionally unclear exactly what happens, but the whale is part of it and it is not a vicious attack – and Stephanie loses both legs from the knees down.

Matthais Schoenhaerts plays Alain, an ex-boxer, half hiding out from his ex-wife, a drug addict. He’s protecting his son, whom he may or may not have taken illegally from the ex.  A lot of backstory is unclear, but it is irrelevant next to the story’s gritty, difficult present.

Stephanie asks Alain for help, because he is one of the few strangers who have been kind to her. In her shame and humiliation at suddenly being a cripple, she needs the kindness of strangers. Thus begins a friendship that becomes a sexual relationship that becomes a love, and eventually inclines into a partnership that saves them both.  Schoenhaerts is excellent: authentic and real, simple but honest.

But Cotillard keeps you riveted, with the depth of feeling, the personal strength and the willingness to face any reality that she brings to her character. It has been said that when Marion Cotillard or any movie star enters a room she seems to bring her own light. Some movie stars shine that light only upon themselves. Marion Cotillard turns her radiance on the character and on her fellow players, thereby revealing the story. She practices a purer form of the craft.

Rust and Bone, in French with English subtitles, opens Friday, Jan. 18th at the Oriental Theater on Farwell.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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