May 22, 2013
Twenty-seven bones that never quite heal
by Julio Nakamurakare
For the Herald
PINAMAR — Curated and directed by film critic Carlos Morelli, the ninth edition of Pantalla Pinamar film festival kicked off on Saturday at a packed auditorium where tribute was paid to legendary Argentine actress María Duval, who starred in Carlos Hugo Christensen’s seminal movie 16 años (1943) and went on to become a household name for Latin American filmgoers. Duval, spriteful and ever winsome at age 86, received a well-deserved standing ovation for her contribution to Argentine cinema, playing a whole range of roles, from ingénues to scheming damsels in distress.
Rightly proud of Pantalla Pinamar’s achievements as a showcase of European, Latin American and peripheral cinema, Morelli and INCAA (National Film Board) President Liliana Mazure thanked foreign delegations, producers, filmmakers and talent. Mazure devoted a few minutes of her speech to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, crediting him with the feat of creating Telesur Latin American TV network, and honouring him for spearheading the sociopolitical transformation of the region.
SHOWTIME. A Cannes Best Picture nominee last year, Jacques Audiard’s De rouille et d'os (Rust and Bone) was on Saturday the Opening Night Feature of Pantalla Pinamar, the yearly film festival held at this seaside resort.
Nominated for multiple awards at the world’s leading film festivals, mainly for Best Picture and Best Actress (Marion Cotillard), Rust and Bone, scripted by Audiard and Thomas Bidegain from Craig Davidson’s short-story book The Fighter, packs high-voltage drama and is emotionally heart wrenching. At least that seems to have been Audiard’s intention when selecting and seguing together several Davidson stories about the predicament and life-changing decisions made by people who spend every minute of their lives fencing off blows from the least expected places at the least expected moment.
At the core of Rust and Bone are Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) at bull-sized early-30s man with a heart of gold and a carefree lifestyle in spite of multiple obligations and family life complications; his six-year-old cherub of a son, Sam (Armand Verdure); and Stéphanie, a beautiful, spiteful young woman who works as an orca whale trainer.
After the motherless child is dumped on him, Ali, a flanneur of sorts trained in kickboxing who dreams of becoming a prizefighter — both for the thrill of it and the much-needed cash prize — seeks shelter in his married sister’s household. Ali is jobless and penniless, but love and solidarity go a long way in spite of his wayward behaviour. But this time Ali is determined to make good for him and for his son — he takes up a job as a nightclub bouncer to support them both and to pay for his son's schooling.
Emotionally scarred and unable to bond, his job as a bouncer furnishes Ali with the kind of opportunities any sex-driven personality would dream of: an easy lay night after night, no strings attached, no guilt, no sense of commitment. But when Stéphanie —a club regular addicted to luring then ditching potential one-night stands — gets involved in a melee, Ali does the right thing. After initial refusal on her part, Ali drives the girl home. Nothing much happens that night, except for Stéphanie’s realization and resolution that she will no longer take orders from Simon, her live-in boyfriend.
But fate strikes Stéphanie the very next day of her new-found resolution and strength, suffering a horrendous accident at Marineland, where she makes theatrical gestures for the orca whales to perform undignified stunts. Maimed and struggling to defeat the ensuing suicidal drive, Stéphanie, although relying on relatives for help and comfort, turns to Ali, the kind bouncer, to abate her pain and misery.
From this point on, the narrative in Audiard’s Rust and Bone follows a linear pattern only for brief stretches, turning, instead, to unneeded and confusing subplots. While interesting in and out of themselves, these parallel stories are not that well connected and distract viewers from what could have been a simpler and more attractive narrative.