As well as being a prestigious showcase for the brightest lights of the industry, the Cannes film festival is also among the best opportunities of the year for English speaking critics to see what other European and World markets will look like for the next year or so. For obvious reasons, there is always a strong French contingent on the Croisette, and the pick of this year’s film inclusions comes from Jacques Audiard who previously made the exceptional Un Prophet, and stars Hollywood regular Marion Cotillard and talented Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts.
The film follows Cotillard’s killer whale trainer and Schoenaert’s unemployed bare-knuckle boxer Ali, who resorts to his brutal, illegal life to survive. The pair fall in love, but their relationship is put to the test when Stéphanie loses the use of her legs in an accident. The film questions whether Ali will tun his back on his new love or if he will support her, using his own experiences to revive her.
Earlier signs are very good, with a fine trailer (which you can see below) already released, and the prospect of two of Europe’s finest acting talents uniting under a very bright directing talent.
Reasons To Be Excited
If you’re looking for some indication of what Audiard can do as a director, earlier projects like The Beat That My Heart Skipped showed his film-making ability, but it was the 2009 Cannes Jury prize winning prison drama Un Prophet which really stands out in his body of work. Gritty, brutal and completely enthralling, Un Prophet was a tour de force, and if Audiard can channel even some of that quality into his drama, we’re looking at a contender here.
The Source Material
Despite the romantic element of the story, this is no flowery humanist drama: based on a collection of short stories by Canadian Craig Davidson, the story will vividly explore Ali’s association with the underworld – an intriguing prospect given how well Un Prophet engaged with murkier social systems. The source book has been praised by as auspicious a talent as Chuck Palahniuk and has been compared to Ernest Hemingway in its depiction of the underworld. Both big pointers towards huge potential for me.
It is always a good indicator of a European actor’s ability when he or she is trusted in Hollywood blockbusters, and Marion Cotillard now has a number under her very talented belt, including Nolan’s Inception. Opposite her, Matthias Schoenaerts might not be as universally recognised, but he has committed a good few excellent performances to screen, with last year’s Bullhead standing out as indicative of a very promising future. Expect him to make the move into English language films soon.
Now that’s a bloody well made trailer, even if I don’t actually know what is being said (four years at Cannes and I’m nowhere near fluent, like the ignoramus I am).
Expect more coverage when Matt touches down on the Croisette next week…