Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Céline Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Bouli Lanners, Jean-Michel Correia, Mourad Frarema, Yannick Choirat
Written by: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, based on short stories by Craig Davidson
Directed by: Jacques Audiard
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 120
Date: 16/05/2012
IMDB

Rust and Bone (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Taste of Blood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Earlier this fall, I read Craig Davidson's book Rust and Bone. I usually hate to read books before the movie adaptations come out, but I'm a lover of short stories and I couldn't help myself. Davidson's stories, which are loosely connected here and there (a minor character in one story becomes a major character in another), are rambunctious, irreverent, funny, painful, harsh, disturbing, uncomfortable, and full of life. Jacques Audiard's movie adaptation is none of those things.

It appears that Audiard and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain simply took some of the book's most interesting images, sucked the life out of them, and employed them in the creation of a middling melodrama. In the book, a performer at an aquatic park loses his legs during a dangerous stunt with a killer whale. Here, Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) loses her legs due to a freak accident (no risk was involved). In the book, we get the funny and horrible details of what it's like to learn to live with no legs. Here, it starts off sad as Stéphanie sulks in bed, and then hopeful as she slowly learns to come back to the world -- thanks to the love of a good man, Alain van Versch (Matthias Schoenaerts), blah, blah, blah. Yes, it's now a "disease-of-the-week" movie, and this is precisely why Ms. Cotillard is being courted for Oscar consideration.

The movie makes more changes from the book, and all of them are weaker, gutted, and stuck in a the most manipulative order possible. Would I have liked the movie -- as did most of my colleagues -- if I had not read the book? Hard to say. Impossible to say. I have been less excited about director Audiard than most of my colleagues have all along. I did not think the Oscar-nominated A Prophet was anything more special than a well-made prison movie, and I have already forgotten about his earlier films The Beat That My Heart Skipped (another inferior movie based on superior English-language material), and Read My Lips. He strikes me as someone far too aware of his audience, and afraid to say or do what he really feels.

I had been looking forward to this film, and I'm disappointed. But I owe it one thing: it introduced me to the book, which I can recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who actually wants to experience something.

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