Movie: Rust & Bone (De rouille et d’os)

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this film, having only read the barest of blurbs before I saw it as a part of the Calgary International Film Festival. It caught my notice because it was French language, and it stars Marion Cotillard, who has become one of my favourite French actresses in the last few years. (See in her ‘La Môme’ as Piaf, and in ‘Public Enemies’ as Billie Frechette, among other films, if you are not yet acquainted with Ms. Cotillard.)

This film did not disappoint. Well, maybe a tad. Everything was great except for the character of Ali. Now, I’m going to get into spoilery detail, so click below to continue at your own risk. Aside from my criticism of Ali’s character, I highly recommend going to see this film. It is fantastic. (Check out the trailer on Youtube.)

The basic premise is that Ali (Alain) moves with his son to the south, and meets Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who has suffered a tragic accident and lost her lower legs. Stephanie’s journey and the progression of her journey is incredibly compelling, and Marion Cotillard plays it subtly; her emotions are portrayed in her body movement and in her face. It’s hard to explain, but she is so fully Stephanie, and I was completely entranced. But Ali… I just don’t know….

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Movie: La Môme (La Vie en Rose)

I’ve posted briefly about this film before, when I spoke of films set in Paris. However, I think a film like La Môme deserves an entry all its own. I saw this film in the theatre 3 or 4 times, taking as many people as I could convince.

The film begins in New York in the later years of Édith Piaf’s career. She’s singing Heaven Have Mercy, and in the midst of her performance, collapses on stage. If you aren’t already familiar with Édith’s life, this traumatic collapse is startling. It sets the scene for a life that was hardly rosy. It then regresses, to her childhood in Belleville, living in a brothel, and traveling with her father in the circus.

My favourite part of the film is Édith’s meeting and falling in love with the boxer Marcel Cerdan. Cerdan was played by the musician and actor Jean-Pierre Martins.

This is perhaps the rosiest time of her life: she’s at the height of her fame, living richly, recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, and she’s in love. The affair itself made headlines, as Cerdan was famous in his own right, a champion in his sport. He was also married. Their letters to each other (published in the book ‘Moi Pour Toi: Lettres d’amour’) were sweet and charming, and as portrayed in the film, their relationship was one of immense passion.

In a letter, Cerdan wrote to her: Je t’aime, t’aime, t’aime, oui, je t’aime. He often addressed her as ‘Édith, chérie‘, or ‘Édith adorée‘, and she would write to him ‘Mon Seigneur que j’aime.’

Their romance played out in cabs, restaurants, the boxing hall, and hotels, whenever they had a chance to be together. The scene where Édith finds out about Marcel’s death (he was killed in a plane crash in 1949) was so well done it brought tears to my eyes.

The film follows Édith’s life from childhood through highs and lows, and finally to her death in Grasse in 1963, at age 47. It was my favourite film of 2007-8, and I was glad that Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for her performance as Piaf. I had hoped it would have been nominated and won far more awards at the Oscars (it won for Makeup as well), but Cotillard won a Golden Globe and it was well-recognized at the Césars. It’s a film I would recommend to anyone, even those who don’t like subtitled or foreign films. Piaf’s voice was like no other and the film is an excellent introduction to her oeuvre.

Movie: Midnight in Paris

Watching ‘Midnight in Paris’, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a bit like walking into a nostalgia shop, except the entirety of Paris is the shop. The film commences with a series of location shots of Paris, setting the tone and the scene for the rest of the film. For those familiar with the city, favourite haunts and landmarks trigger that nostalgic feeling. For those unfamiliar with the city, the montage might get a tad dull, though one would hope that an unfamiliarity of Paris would not preclude seeing this film.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. He’s obsessed with 1920s Paris, and one night after getting lost walking back to his hotel, at the very stroke of midnight, he’s picked up by revelers in an old Peugeot. He finds himself somehow transported to 1920s Paris, partying with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, meeting Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein… it’s a veritable name dropping of ‘20s literary society. On his second visit, he is enchanted by a young woman dating Picasso. He falls in love with her, and returns to the 1920s via the car at the stroke of midnight to visit her, and to get Stein’s views on his unpublished novel. As their visit to Paris lengthens, his relationship with his fiancée is souring, and he has to decide what he should do with his life.

The film has an excellent ensemble cast: Kathy Bates as Stein, Marion Cotillard as Gil’s love interest Adriana, Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, and Gad Elmaleh as the detective, among others. Corey Stoll especially was a delight as the very upfront and opinionated Ernest Hemingway. The film is an English student’s dream: my theatre companion squealed at the sight of T.S. Eliot, and then of Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. I wonder if Woody Allen’s nostalgic Paris is the 1920s?

I know what era of Paris I would like to visit, should a car come for me at midnight… the 1940s-1950s, visiting the cafés and rubbing shoulders with the existentialists. But of course, you knew that, right?