Friday, 26 October 2012

London Film Festival 2012 Weekend: Day 3


Rust and Bone
There's a moment in Jacques Audiard's new film Rust and Bone which has been called "the Katy Perry scene" and will make you cry an ocean. The scene features her (now popular on movie soundtracks) hit "Firework" and was the one thing everybody raved about coming out of Cannes. There are actually two "Firework" scenes, so don't be confused when the first one comes along about 15 minutes in and isn't very tear-jerking at all - quite the opposite in fact, as a terrible accident seriously injuries one of our main characters, Stephanie, played by an Oscar worthy Marion Cotillard. No it's the second scene much later which will dissolve you to mush - and this is the moment where Cotillard ascends into another level. No matter what you hear about this film being a tender love story between a broken woman and a man struggling with his own domestic issues (Ali, played by Matthias Schoenaerts) - Rust and Bone for me was about the relationship Stephanie has with her orca whales. The creatures she devoted her life to, her limbs trained in their own unique dance to guide them as they perform at the local marine park - it's these animals which destroy her life, without warning or intent, and from the darkest of depths she must find a way to come back into the world, and reach out to them again: it's the only way she can truly accept what has happened to her and move on. The "Katy Perry scene" coupled with the one just after where she re-creates her routine by tapping on the glass of their water tank (above) are absolutely gorgeous film making and acting. Audiard creates some striking and dramatic images in this film, but this will be what lingers in the mind afterward. Aside from this, it's Ali who the camera follows primarily, as we follow him move with his young son into the town of Antibes to live with his sister and her husband. He picks up odd work as a bouncer - where he first meets Stephanie - and as a security guard, but seems more interested in one night stands with random women and forging a name for himself in the underground fighting scene than he does creating a stable environment for his son, who is mainly cared for by his aunt. He seems incapable of knowing how to be a father, his attention erratic and his temper volcanic - particularly when an incident causes his son to break down into tears and he rashly throws him against a table. He is in all senses not particularly likable, which is why you are drawn to Stephanie's character instead, and where the heart of this film lies. Left in a wheelchair after her accident at the marine park, the confident girl becomes a shell, as her own relationship falls apart (this happens off camera, you're left to understand they cannot overcome her accident) and she moves into a specially modified apartment for her needs, with carers coming to help her with basic tasks throughout the day. She remembers her chance encounter with Ali at a nightclub and phones him on a whim, and the two of them form a strangely tender connection. He does not pity her injury, nor mollycoddle her, and she seems to soak up the strength and charisma he generates to build herself back up into the woman she once was again. For all the melodrama this film creates, I appreciate the lack of angst between these two characters. They're inseparable but they're not a couple; they have sex, but they're not lovers (Stephanie puts a ban on kissing). So much is unsaid. As the film goes on, Stephanie's jealousy at his one night stands grows and she tries to lay down some ground rules, but this is as far as they get to being in a relationship. She has always known from the moment he treated her like a normal human being she has needed him, but it's not until the very end after a (yet another!) tragic accident that he realises he needs her. A killer whale of a film, that also nabbed Best Film at the London Film Festival awards last weekend. I won't knock the stellar work of Schoenaerts and the rest of the cast, but if Cotillard doesn't get a second Oscar for her devastating, renewing portrayal here then I shall go make friends with a cat.
Aside: and this particular screening shall be forever infamously known as "Thrust and Bone" after a couple were asked to leave for having sex in the cinema. It was a sold out screening, I'll point out. Oh, that's what that "shout" was.

Brandon Cronenberg didn't watch his father's films until he was in his 20s. Still, the lust for visceral body horror must have been instilled in him sometime. Antiviral is Cronenberg Jnr's debut film, and draws interesting parallels to his father David's first feature effort, Stereo, which is also set in the near future and focuses on a form of twisted human science. Brandon Cronenberg's vision here is bold, ambitious and stark - all interior action is set against white minimalist backgrounds, emphasising the vibrant colour red in lipstick, or more prominently, in blood. In a celebrity obsessed world, which comes across markedly insular to our protagonist Syd (a strikingly physical Caleb Landry Jones), in an attempt to get even closer to their idols, fans are forking out dosh to have their virus's injected into them, causing them atrocious side effects and deformities they are more than happy to live with. Syd, an administrator of this practice and employee at one of the top clinics in the profession is himself addicted, infecting himself with a new strand of virus which has beset the biggest known celebrity in the world Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) - and which is now slowly killing her.... and him. If you can get past the incessant needles (and needle centric violence later on in the film), Antiviral is a lot like its shiny surfaces. It lures you in, but you're just left staring at an opaque glass surface. It never quite explores its own premise fully enough for this world to seem real - it's too clinical to feel authentic. Engagement is sidelined for looking on in disgust and fascination at these messed up people and the deeper layers of corruption Syd unveils as he tries to get to the truth. But here's the truth: it failed to fascinate me. For long stretches I was bored, detached from what was happening on the screen and finding it difficult to blend back in when my focus re-settled. A cameo from Malcolm McDowell raised a smile, but I was already at a loss as to what was happening and why. Not a film to my taste perhaps, but then again I'm not always in tune with the Cronenberg style - I can take it or leave it, so hopefully there's some greater work still to come from generation 2.0.

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