Two movies that take place in France are new out on DVD and Blu-ray, but other than that, there are pretty much no similarities between them at all. In fact, this Blu-ray/DVD review is a study in polar opposites.
Titled De rouille et d’os in its native country, Rust and Bone is an unusual love story between a woman who trains killer whales for a living (Marion Cotillard) and an unemployed single father (Matthias Schoenaerts) who fights in underground boxing matches to support his son. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped), it’s an up close and personal examination of the fragile personas that people choose to wear and what happens when those facades are completely shattered.
Cotillard and Schoenaerts are impressive, turning in particularly nuanced performances in the naturalistic setting of an economically challenged part of southern France. Audiard uses handheld cinematography to create an intimacy that’s startling. In the case of Cotillard, her journey is defined by one excruciating incident, while Schoenaerts’ life has been one big frustration, which he is forced to take in prideful stride. Rust and Bone is a tough, emotionally raw movie, but its not a difficult watch, and its a very skillfully rendered piece of neo-realism.
The bonus features on the Rust and Bone Blu-ray are pretty damn awesome. Director Jacques Audiard, writer Thomas Bidegain, and journalist Arnaud Calistri talk on the feature-length commentary track about every possible topic, in French with English subtitles. An hour-long making-of doc is particularly enlightening, and there are approximately seven minutes of deleted scenes, a VFX breakdown, and red-carpet footage from the Toronto Film Festival.
On the other side of the quality-filmmaking coin, there’s the black-and-white comedy/thriller Dead in France.
It’s a U.K.-produced crime caper that’s neither funny nor thrilling, and it is frustratingly, singlemindedly bent on cheap thrills and faux-clever dialogue and situations that are so contrived and hackneyed that Troy Duffy probably threw them out while making Boondock Saints II:All Saints Day.
Brian A. Levine plays Charles, a hitman living in Cannes who is looking to retire. He hires a cleaning lady named Lisa (Celia Muir) who has sex in every room in his house with her awful supposedly punk-rock boyfriend (Darren Bransford). Meanwhile, a couple of small-time thieves luck upon Charles’ formidable nest egg and a crazy rival hitwoman (Kate Loustau) comes after him because she’s so disappointed in his new life choices. All the while, these despicable parodies of human beings do the kind of vile things that stupid dunderheads wish people did in real life. The problem is that each setup requires them to act out in ways that only dumb, libido-fulfilling movie characters do.
Just because Dead in France takes place in several locations across the beautiful Cote d’Azur doesn’t mean it’s a particularly nice to look at either. I’m assuming that filming in black and white was a budgetary decision, but why bother? If there was at least some aesthetically pleasing color photography of the French Riveria there might be one reason to sit through this schlocky nightmare. (And if using black and white was a strategy to evoke film noir, I’m sorry to say that Dead in France is nowhere near a noir, even if its “characters” repeatedly make bad, bad choices.)
The newly released Dead in France DVD contains deleted scenes and an (aptly named I’m sure) gag reel, neither of which I could stomach a watch.