Un Prophet was a great film, a sweeping, brutal, transcendent prison drama that marked out its director as a major European filmmaker. But, even having seen it twice, I have no real idea what it is about.

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It strikes me that Jacque Audiard is a director who likes to load up his film with oblique, mysterious references just to make sure that nobody mistakes them for ordinary.

Rust and Bone presents us with a beauty and the brute tale; the story of a relationship between a whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) and a low life single dad who works in security but has a sideline as a bare-knuckle brawler (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts).

The brute doesn’t appear to be much use to anyone but his brusque ways turn out to be of use when Cotillard suffers a severe life changing accident.

I guess it is called Rust and Bone because the Whale Trainer and the Bare-Knuckle Brawler would just sound too silly. It doesn’t shy away from melodrama but done with a severity and bleak intensity to make audiences believe in the reality of the situation. It is like Michael Haneke directing an episode of The Bold and The Beautiful - The Raw and the Ridiculous, perhaps.

Audiard is an extraordinary gifted filmmaker with an eye for the telling detail. A long truck journey is conveyed with a single shot of the canvas at the back flapping in the wind – it’s very simple but it communicates so much more than a lead character is making a long journey. It also joins the growing list of recent films that have employed Katy Perry’s Firework, but Audiard’s use of it gives it a fierce, wrenching poignancy. And as someone who had never quite understood what it was about Cotillard that makes every top rank Hollywood director turn to melted M&Ms in her hand, she really has never been better than she is here.

So all in all a marvellous film yet one that is, for me at least, strangely uninvolving; a cheap melodrama that has been chaperoned away to the exclusive, cordoned off, VIP area.

RUST AND BONE (15)

Directed by Jacque Audiard

Starring Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdue, Celine Sallette, Bouli Lanners and Jean Michel Correia

Length: 120 mins

***

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