Rust and Bone

One of the problems of arriving to the Toronto Film Festival just a few hours in advance is that you cannot make a mistake. Fallible as I am, I wasn’t aware I couldn’t get my press pass until 9 A.M. Hence, I spent an hour in the most pointless line imaginable and was late for the first film of  TIFF ’12.

Is becoming a tradition the inaugural movie is a letdown. I figure a Cannes selection would be a good start. I was wrong.

Rust and Bone (France): Besides ferociously committed actors, Rust and Bone is an aimless enterprise from somebody who should know better, the director of A Prophet, Jacques Audiard. The excellent Marion Cotillard gets rid of all the glamour often accompanies her performances to portrait a double amputee struggling to get out of her shell. A bouncer with problems of his own (the superb Matthias Schoenaerts) initially succeeds thanks to a no-nonsense approach, but soon enough the relationship becomes more complicated.

Rust and Bone is not a feel-good movie by any stretch (it’s character based and devoid of pity). The problem with the movie  is that lacks a clear goal. A dramatic event is badly shoehorned in the final minutes to bring the story to an end. It’s both cheap and a betrayal of the spirit of the film, at least in its early minutes. I interviewed Cotillard, Schoenaerts and Audiard, all lovely. Still: Two maimed prairie dogs. Poor doggies.

The Gatekeepers (Israel): A documentary focused on the Israel Security Agency better known as the Shin Bet, The Gatekeeper is a dry, extremely interesting film. Through interviews to the different bosses of the Shin Bet, we get to see the story of Israel as they did. It may come as a surprise how unfocused the Shin Bet was during the early days of the occupation of Palestine.

Terrorism gave the agency a reason to be, and soon the Shin Bet found itself in the slippery slope of enhanced interrogation. Particularly illuminating is how the intelligence organism had to also deal with far-right extremists among settlers. While the interviewees differ on the morality of their work, they all agree dialogue is key. Currently, it’s non-existent. Two prairie dogs at each side.

La Sirga (Colombia): Ugh, this one was a snoozer. After loosing her parents in suspicious circumstances (an earlier image shows a man impaled in the middle of a field), a sweet-natured teenager looks for refuge at his uncle’s place. The man takes her in, but she must help with the many repairs the place need. Being the only available woman for miles around, the girl attracts unwanted attention, even from her flesh and blood.

The simmering sexual tension and a couple of unresolved murders add to nothing. There is barely a payoff at the end and none of the key plot moments are shown on screen. La Sirga is a carefully shot ninety minute tease. One very frustrated prairie dog.

Random notes:

* Marion Cotillard looks exactly the same in person. Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) is a lot skinnier.

* Who would have thought: The director of A Prophet likes Katy Perry and hates violence.

* There is a lot of free food and no time to eat. Tragic.

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