I am not going to lie to you I believe Jacques Audiard is a modern film legend, an Auteur talent that embodies and continues the great French legacy of original and challenging filmmaking. His latest film Rust and Bone his second collaboration with writer Thomas Bidegain is powerful and the most deeply moving film I have seen in a long time. It packs an emotionally charged punch as this romance for our times builds to crescendo with brave and absolutely outstanding performances from both Matthias Schoenaerts and the always brilliant Marion Cotillard.
The handful of Audiard's films that I have seen (I am always on the look out for his earlier works) have been exceptional, each one full of original & textured characters that inhabit a world much like our own, until Audiard slowly peels back the layers to reveal danger around many corners and hidden depth to his characters. Each of his films that I have seen are minor masterpieces of human emotion and decisions that have left me on the edge of my seat and marveling at how well constructed and performed they are.
While his films are original and unpredictable Audiard does not rely on high concept, gimmicks, slick visuals, special effects or even mind bending twists to tell his stories rather engaging characters brought to life by exceptional performances. His films are emotional tales about people and relationships under pressure and pushed to extreme behaviours by their environments - often entwined into the criminal underworld creating tension and friction between characters.
But the themes he addresses are not only universal, but linked to every day life, seemingly this approach is not set in stone as with his critically acclaimed A Prophet he added another dimension of bringing an underlying mysticism or spirituality to the fore.
In Jacques Audiard's 2001 film Sur mes lèvres or Read My Lips (Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Devos, Olivier Gourmet) is sublime and every bit as unpredictable and compelling as A Prophet (his 2009 hit). I was left near breathless by Audiard's 2005 De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté or The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Romain Duris, Aure Atika, Emmanuelle Devos and Niels Arestrup) The Beat That My Heart Skipped is absolutely astounding and as with his other films, we are given a uniquely credibly view into a seedy French underworld.
A Prophet (Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup and Adel Bencherif) was my favourite film of 2010 and I wasn't the only one that felt that way as it bowled audiences over winning best film at the London Film Festival 2009 - raising awareness of Audiard to international audiences.
This year I have eagerly been waiting for Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone which I loved and was elated when it went on to win best film at the London Film Festival. Rust and Bone is exhilarating, chilling and builds to an emotional release that still haunts me a month after seeing it. Rust and Bone is in cinemas now and my thoughts on it can be found here!
Read on to hear what happens when I sit down with one of my heroes Director Jacques Audiard and writer Thomas Bidegain to chat about their latest masterpiece Rust and Bone. They do not disappoint. I should warn you there are spoilers.
JACQUES AUDIARD & THOMAS BIDEGAIN CHARACTERISE RUST AND BONES
I was hoping to kick off by gaining some insight into Audiard and Bidegain's vision for Rust and Bone that they frame in their Director's notes. Sadly, but understandably, they were a little tight lipped on expository style descriptions - so here is an excerpt from the statement instead.
“From the very beginning of our work adapting it, we were focused on a kind of cinematography that, for want of a better word, we called ‘expressionist’. We wanted the power of stark, brutal and contrasting images in order to Further the melodrama: the aesthetics of the Great Depression, of county-fair films whose bizarre visual work sublimates the dark reality of a world in which God vomits the lukewarm.
It is that kind of aesthetic that constantly guided us as we worked on the screenplay. It sustains a love story that is true hero of the film. It shoes the world through the eyes of a confused child. It underscores the nobleness of our characters in a world made violent by economic disaster. And it respects Ali and Stephanie’s stubborn attempts to escape their condition.”CRAIG GROBLER: I AM TRYING TO AVOID QUESTIONS ABOUT INTERPRETATION BUT HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERISE RUST AND BONE?
Jacques Audiard: It's a melodrama. We call it melo-trash.
Craig Grobler: Some might say romance?
Thomas Bidegain: Yes it's a love story.
JACQUES AUDIARD & THOMAS BIDEGAIN ON ADAPTING CRAIG DAVIDSON’S ORIGINAL SHORT STORIES
RUST AND BONE IS BASED ON CRAIG DAVIDSON SHORT STORY, BUT NEITHER THE LEADS ALI NOR STÉPHANIE ARE IN THE SHORT STORY, WHAT INFORMED THEIR CHARACTERS?
Thomas Bidegain: Actually it was based on several short stories, mixed together. There was no love story in the shorts also in the short stories there was Marion’s character but it was man who worked in Sea World and lost one leg.
Jacques Audiard: A woman loses two!
Thomas Bidegain: The minute we thought it was a woman we took the decision to have her lose both her legs, because then it will become something of an erotic proposition.
The character Stephanie doesn't really exist in the short stories and the Ali character was a boxer in the short stories. But we needed him not be a boxer as boxing is his objective or goal at the end and not the beginning. At the beginning he is a guy who doesn't know he can fight but he is not afraid of anything and he enjoys it.
So the characters are very different from the short stories. The love story doesn't exist, but the universe as it is described in the short stories is definitely still there – that is what attracted us to the story, the universe of crisis and economic catastrophe.
WHAT DID YOU READ RUST AND BONE IS BASED ON CRAIG DAVIDSON SHORT STORY, IN THEM THAT COMPELLED YOU TO MAKE A FEATURE FILM?
Jacques Audiard: Craig Davidson's short stories create a complete universe. And a lot of things we would not have thought about ourselves; the Marineland, the fights, the kid, the mutilation and the general atmosphere of devastation and crisis.
We were just coming out of A Prophet, a movie about jail men, no light, no space, no women, no love. With Rust and Bone I wanted to go in the opposite direction with love and a strong female character. So we really imposed a love story on Craig Davidson's stories.
JACQUES AUDIARD ON THE UNDERWORLD THEME THAT RUNS THROUGH HIS FILMS
CRAIG GROBLER: JACQUES I AM CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND, THE CRIMINAL UNDERWORLD SEEMS TO BE A THEME THAT RUNS THROUGH ALL OF YOUR FILMS. WHERE DOES THIS INTEREST COME FROM?
Jacques Audiard: It’s because I'm a bourgeois. Making films is always going towards something you don't know, exploring the unknown.
So it could be a geographical territory, it could be a relationship between two people, it could be psychological - it's always something you don't know.
That is the way I use cinema. I use it to look at somewhere that's a bit different. So I learn and make a film about that. That's what I like to see as part of the audience. Films that don’t teach me anything leaves me cold.
I BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS WAS NOT LOOK LIKE THE KIND OF ACTOR YOU WERE CASTING FOR, SO WHAT STOOD OUT ABOUT HIM FOR THE ROLE OF ALI WHEN YOU MET?
Jacques Audiard: Well the character we wrote was a lot tougher than what we ended up with on screen. He was a closed character, more like an animal and thought the character was not seductive enough, the question became how would a girl fall in love with someone like him?
So the collaboration with Matthias was to make the character more juvenile and he brought a lot of charm to the role this way. It also changed the position he had with his son. In the original scenario he was a really violent father, and then with the juvenile element he became a big brother, clumsy but loving.
This really changed a lot of things in the film - in the end he discovers he really is a father.
|Matthias Schoenaerts & Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone|
JACQUES AUDIARD & THOMAS BIDEGAIN ON DEVELOPING THE CHARACTERS AND NARRATIVE OF RUST AND BONE
THERE ARE THREE STORIES IN RUST AND BONE; ALI’S STORY, STEPHANIE’S STORY AND THEIR STORY TOGETHER – HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT BALANCING ALL THREE?
Jacques Audiard: We find the balance through the story of the children. In the end it is the story of the children and the kid has the final word, he is the one who talks to us about the future.
MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS’S CHARACTER ALI DOES SOME VERY UNLIKEABLE THINGS IN THE FILM, YET AS AN AUDIENCE WE EMPATHISE WITH HIM. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT DOING THAT?
Jacques Audiard: Alfred Hitchcock used to say the better the villain, the more violent he is, the more interesting the film. The better the bad guy, the better the film. If you start with full characters, it will be difficult to grow from there.
Thomas Bidegain: Beneath that, if you want to build a hero he needs to change. The difficult thing with Ali’s character is that he evolves at a slower pace while Stephanie’s character is evolving all the time - she goes from arrogant princess to disabled lady. So it was difficult to write Ali
Jacques Audiard: Ali is not a nice guy, he's rough, he's tough but his problem is that he doesn’t have the words and language and the thing with Ali is that he evolves to express his feelings. It is a question of vocabulary
|Marion Cotillard as Stéphanie in Rust and Bone|
Jacques Audiard: Usually a feminine character would look at men fighting and may not like it, especially the blood. It is quite shocking and it would shock me. But for me - what Stephanie sees in the fighting is the braveness, the courage. She knows what courage is as she is courageous and she recognises that in Ali's fighting.
EARLIER YOU MENTIONED CHANGES, AND AS RUST AND BONE BECOMES VERY UNPREDICTABLE TOWARDS THE END I WAS WONDERING IF THERE WERE ANY CHANGES MADE TO MAKE IT MORE UNPREDICTABLE? WERE THERE OTHER VERSIONS OF SCENES PERHAPS?
Thomas Bidegain: No - the ending was always like that. We wanted the film to be unpredictable, and it works because it's character driven. Each character took us on a journey; sometimes saw it as an adventure film, as a ride. You get on and go with the characters. As we were writing the characters were taking us through the story. For example it was difficult to write scene 54 before writing scene 53, because we were never quite sure of what the characters would do in the scene - would they make love, would they talk. It was a game between those characters and us writers.
|Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain van Versch in Rust and Bone|
Thomas Bidegain: We changed the characters, it’s always the same in the writing process, you develop the story sometime you might find your self in a dead end you go back to the beginning and redefine the characters. That helps you go further in the story.
Jacques Audiard: I don’t know if that answered your question but - sometimes we thought we would tell the story of both characters on the same level. But the characters are not equal, Ali is the main character. He's the one that brings us into the story. But because of the events in Stephanie’s arc you are led to think that it is her story. But it is not
Thomas Bidegain: Also Armand Verdure’s character Sam the kid plays an important role in the story, we thought of him as an narrator. At the beginning his eyes are closed, and he wakes up at the end. We knew the film would produce very strong images: orcas, woman with no legs, fights – these are images from fairy tales. All images that a kid would see – the monstrous reality seen through the eyes of a lost kid.
I'm only leaving this is question in as I have read some reports that animal activists have been angered by the use of Marine life in Rust and Bone. Which is very odd, because if anything the film portrays the stark reality of these animals in captivity including an unpleasant sequence where disturbing and loud thumping music can be heard underwater. I can only surmise that these activists have either misinterpreted what the film is saying or have not seen it at all.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE KATY PERRY'S FIREWORKS FOR THE SOUNDTRACK, I HEARD THAT MARION COTILLARD ACTUALLY CHOSE IT?
Jacques Audiard: No, it’s actually the music from the Sea World show. It is really tough on the animals as they have to listen to it 4 times a day.
JACQUES AUDIARD ON THE ANIMAL SYMBOLOGY THEME THAT RUNS THROUGH HIS WORK
CRAIG GROBLER: THERE SEEMS TO BE ANOTHER THEME RUNNING THROUGH YOUR FILMS, PARTICULARLY YOUR RECENT WORKS AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOUR USE OF ANIMAL SYMBOLISM IS SOMETHING THAT YOU MIGHT EXPLORE MORE FULLY IN FUTURE WORKS?
Jacques Audiard: Yes.
JACQUES AUDIARD ON THE CURRENT STATE OF FILMMAKING
CRAIG GROBLER: CAN I GET A COMMENT FROM BOTH OF YOU AS ARTISTS ABOUT THE STATE OF FILMMAKING IN FRANCE AND WORLDWIDE?
Jacques Audiard: I don’t know if we’re really qualified to comment on that.
Craig Grobler: There is no one more qualified.
Jacques Audiard: I still really love cinema but I adored it at one point. Something has changed. Something has changed and I do not agree with it. So the next question is – what is it that I do not like?
There is an industry aspect of cinema - the relationship between cinema and reality, the fact that at one point cinema was helping to understand the world and most of the time now cinema is telling stories but it’s different. Cinema is telling us about cinema and not about reality.
That relationship between reality and cinema is more and more disturbed. The films I like today come from Iran, from Korea, from China, because they tell me something I don’t know and inform me about the state of the world.
Jacques Audiard, acclaimed director of A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, returns with this powerful, tender romantic drama about two people from very different worlds seeking redemption in each other.
Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose, Inception) stars as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who late one night meets Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts, Bullhead) in a fracas at the nightclub where he works as a bouncer. Put in charge of his young son, Alain has come from Belgium to Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain’s bond with Stephanie grows deeper after she suffers a horrible accident, bringing the two together once more.
|Rust and Bone quad Poster|
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The Establishing Shot CHATS RUST AND BONE WITH DIRECTOR JACQUES AUDIARD AND WRITER THOMAS BIDEGAIN