Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grabbing The Bullhead By The Hormones


Earlier this week the announcement that Jacques "A Prophet" Audiard's new movie Rust and Bone was going to be premiering at Cannes sent me into a little bit of a Matthias Schoenaerts spiral, and reminded me that I'd missed seeing his supposed tour de force performance in this past February's Best Foreign Film nominee Bullhead. Obviously, this needed to be rectified, and rectified it is.


And tour de force it is. Though a quieter sadder sort than I anticipated, than that phrase implies, considering that he's playing a testosterone-injecting meat-man thug with muscles so big he can hardly see around them. Even his name, Jacky Vanmarsenille, hints at this duality - a tough-guy front with a feminine backend.

(Granted, while at first blush you'd be hard-pressed to consider that back-end feminine, there it is.)

And for sure, that's the movie in a nut-shell (oh I can't help myself). The friction of forced masculinity, overcompensating so far you very nearly fall backwards. While on the surface you expect this to be another Bronson, Schoenarts performance is the mirror-opposite of Tom Hardy's - everything is pulled in so far you have to lean right into Jacky's oncoming head-butt.

I wish the film as a whole had been more satisfied with just leaning into Schoenart's performance full-time and not spending so much time with too many off-shoots - the crime story surrounding him lacks focus and ends up a distraction more than an elucidation of Jacky's surroundings, and where everything about Jacky feel incisive and honest, brutally so, with sharp insights into the empty pageantry of manhood, his fellow fellows feel pencil-thin in comparison.

But it's a gorgeously shot rumination on the unmaking of one lumbering husk of a man when it concentrates hard enough, and Schoenarts gives Jacky's physical heft an emotional heft that's heartbreaking.

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