Heard the one about the romance between an unemployed drifter who becomes a bare-knuckle boxer and a whale trainer disabled after a freak accident?
Audiard confirms on accompanying hour-long doc Gritty Melodrama that he deliberately set out to “make a film that fitted into a genre even I can’t name,” dropping mad ideas and mythic images into a neo-realist landscape of recession and hard knocks.
Yet it’s also about a director out of his comfort zone, who hates letting technology constrain the actors’ freedom and yet has chosen a project demanding complex and seamless FX work.
The doc reveals a clearly challenged Audiard and his crew striving to make calculated visuals look effortless, but their endeavours pay off in a film whose visual coups enhance, rather than distract from, two astonishing performances.
Marion Cotillard avoids hamming to essay a woman wounded as much emotionally as physically. Her raw candour is matched by the bruised soul (and hands) of co-star Matthias Schoenaerts.
Theirs is a complex relationship that brings a plausibility to the plot’s potentially unwieldy twists.
Audiard has created a visceral experience, one that does for love what A Prophet did for crime.
Unfazed by big emotions and not above using Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ to soundtrack a spine-tingling epiphany, this is arthouse at its most accessible.