You may not have heard of Jacques Audiard, but this French director has earned worldwide fame over the past ten years for his films about down-and-out characters faced with moral dilemmas. In 2005, Audiard stunned audiences with The Beat That My Heart Skipped, a story of a man torn between a life of crime and a life of music. The film was nominated for ten Cesar Awards and won for Best Film. Here are two more must-see films from the Paris-born director.
A Prophet (2009)
A Prophet is the story of life in a French prison seen through the eyes of a young Frenchman of Arab descent, Malik El Djebena (Tahir Rahim). Malik begins his 6-year sentence as an innocent inmate, and is unable to read or write. He has no friends or enemies but no protection. After a scuffle on the prison yard, Malik is approached by Corsicans who rule over the prison led by Cesar Luciani. The boss asks Malik to kill a fellow Arab and in return he will receive protection from the Corsicans. Jacques Audiard delivers a shocking sequence of events as Malik processes his situation, prepares and executes, however there is no glorification in the actions of the main character. Once Malik has protection he learns the rules of the game. He teaches himself to read and write, learns the Corsican language, makes his own deals and becomes the eyes and ears for the Corsican boss. “I don’t work for anybody. I work for myself.” A Prophet is available to rent on the two most popular platforms to rent movies online: Netflix and iTunes.
Rust and Bone (2012)
Jacques Audiard emerged as a modern master with his latest film, Rust And Bone. The director’s previous leads, Romain Duris and Tahar Rahim, gave remarkable performances as morally conflicted characters, however this time around Audiard has reached a new level of adroitness with the powerful tandem of Mattias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard.
With the character of Ali (Schoenaerts), the male lead is once again navigating his way through rough waters but not conflicted about his ideals along the way. Ali enjoys fighting (“because it’s fun”) and having sex. Neither affect him morally whatsoever. His only real problem is that he needs to find a job after moving in with his sister in Antibes. As a viewer, one can see that Ali has several obvious personal flaws, however his social interactions reveal that this instinctual behavior was learned long before.
Stėphanie (Cotillard) is a morally conflicted character at the start. After being punch accidentally at a nightclub, the bouncer Ali (Schoenearts) escorts her home and says that she is “dressed like a whore”. Despite the comment, Stéphanie still agrees to let Ali come up to her apartment and ice his damaged hand. Her boyfriend is waiting and visibly nervous when the imposing Ali enters. “I saw your face…how he shut you up”, Stéphanie says.
Although Ali neglects the people closest to him, and at times is physically abusive, this character is not the Jake LaMotta of “Raging Bull”. His obsession is not a woman, it is money and way out. The emotionally damaged Stéphanie enjoys her work as a seal trainer, but her ideals will be challenged after a horrendous accident.
Jacques Audiard knows what buttons to push in Rust And Bone, and will surprise you with his use of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. The transformations of the main leads are subtle, the dialogue is brutally honest and moments of clarity are revealed through intense, personal moments of Ali and Stephanie. Rust and Bone is a powerhouse film and available to rent on Netflix and iTunes.