Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

De Rouille et D’Os – Rust and Bone

Review Date: 12-8-12

Release Date: 11-23-12

Runtime: 120 minutes

Period: Contemporary

Costume Designer: Virginie Montel

Rust and Bone is the epic, harrowing and stunning story of Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident, and Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a negligent father who enters the competitive world of street fighting. Stephanie is drawn to danger in all its forms, and Ali provides her with plenty of it, helping her to heal along the way.

When we first meet Ali and his son Sam (Armand Verdure), he is wearing a red t-shirt with a faded dark grey jacket. He’s searching the trashcans on the train for food because he and his son are starving. They obviously are not rich people – they look sketchy and poor. They travel to the south of France to seek refuge with Ali’s estranged sister Anna (Corrine Masiero). Evidently, the boy has been used as a drug mule by his mother, and Ali needed to escape before things got worse. Anna very reluctantly takes them in.

When we first meet Stephanie, she is at a nightclub, having been punched in the face by someone (unseen) who leaves her with a bloody nose. Stephanie wears a revealing sheer blouse with a miniskirt, leather jacket, and heels. All black. On the prowl. Her hair is loose and down, and Ali (now working as a security guard) drives her to her home after the fight. There, he meets her boyfriend. So why was she at the club if she has a boyfriend? She is attracted to danger.

Ali starts to train in earnest for fighting. His work as a bouncer has inspired him. Here he runs, wearing an “Airness” t-shirt. Airness is a French sports apparel company. I am thinking that this must have been promo. Look at the colors, folks – black, red, grayish white.

As a whale trainer, Stephanie wears a wetsuit – if I had to guess, I would say that these were promo’d from the company who made them, Scubapro – they are great advertising for the manufacturer – the logo is front and center. Note the black and red color combo.

After Stephanie has her horrible accident, her color palette changes. She goes into a color-neutral world, starting with a hospital gown, and edging into this taupe color. Her skin is pallid, her hair is stringy, and it appears she has lost her will to live.

She gets back in touch with Ali, and he takes her to the beach. It’s the first time that she’s been out in months. Note her greasy hair, grey shapeless pants and muddled-mauve top.

To be an amputee in the movie, the filmmakers had to use what we sometimes refer to as “green screen” technology to make it look like her legs have disappeared. Usually, what this means is that the body part to be removed is covered in green, and then a plate shot is used to replace the green with whatever was in the background. In this particular scene, Ali takes her into the ocean, and she swims again, for the first time since the accident – she is free and unencumbered in the water.

At some point in here, Stephanie has one of her friends over to her new state-subsidized apartment. They are going through boxes of her old clothes and shoes, and she is throwing most of them out. You can see by the looks of the garments that her style was sexy, flirty and feminine – a far cry from where she is now, left to rot on the vine. She pulls out the sheer blouse she wore when she first met Ali, and saves it.

Eventually, she gets prosthetic legs, and meets Ali at the beach. Here her costumage turns really interesting. She is wearing a black t-shirt and these odd print pants – they are made from a flowy fabric. She walks with a cane… but she’s getting back to herself, color-wise.

Eventually, she begins an intimate relationship with Ali, and something clicks. Her life doesn’t have to be totally different from the one she once knew. She goes to the balcony and runs through the whale-training routine to the strains of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. She is getting her groove back.

Meanwhile, Ali is training for the street fights. He’s a horrible father, and can never seem to keep track of his son or look out for him as he should. Here, Sam yearns for some cuddle time with his dad, who is studying a fight online. It’s so sad. Ali is also having sex with whomever he can, it seems – in a back room of a gym with an aerobics teacher, in a darkened room with the neighbor – it’s compulsive, out-of-control animal behavior. It seems he can’t be responsible for his own behavior and life, much less the life of a child who needs him dearly.

Stephanie goes to visit the whales back at her old work. The whale remembers her, and follows her commands as she signals to him. It’s almost as if he misses her. It’s pretty beautiful to see her spirit return as she realizes that her world is still there for her, in some way.

Ali has his first fight, and Stephanie comes along. Martial (Bouli Lanners) is the bookmaker for the fights, and there are thousands of Euros at stake. Women are “not allowed” at these things, evidently, and she watches from the van. Ali disposes of him opponent quickly and efficiently as the crowd stands around and cheers. He is a modern-day gladiator, fighting until his opponent can no longer stand on two feet. He is danger embodied.

During this time, Ali has hooked up in another way with Martial – installing surveillance cameras inside warehouses and businesses so that bosses can spy on their employees. In France, this is illegal (in the US, it is not as long as employees are made aware of cameras). So, in this context, the employer PLUS the guys installing the cameras could all go to jail for spying on the employees. One of the places they install cameras is a supermarket where Ali’s sister Anna works.

Ali and Stephanie’s intimate relationship grows, and one night they go to the club where Ali used to work – the same place they met. Stephanie wears the same outfit from her first appearance in the film – the sheer top that she pulled from the box, miniskirt, leather jacket… only this time she has prosthetic legs and walks with a cane. It seems that Stephanie wants to create the moment, seize that part of her life back, and her costume choice makes the statement for her.  Ali picks up a blond hussy while dancing and leaves with her, presumably to have sex. Stephanie seethes and explodes on a guy who tries to buy her a drink.

Later, Stephanie finds Ali and they have a conversation about their relationship. Look at the colors in the costumes here. They mirror and complement each other very nicely. For as much as she is trying to train and tame the killer whale (now in the form of Ali), they are united. Her danger-seeking behavior comes full-circle. She wants to be exclusive with Ali, and he hears her.

One day, Martial and Ali are exposed, having set up cameras at his sister’s store. They go to the store to fetch their equipment, and a worker takes Ali’s picture. Martial decides to leave town rather than be prosecuted. He asks Stephanie to take over his bookmaking business with the fighting. She smiles – this provides new purpose for her. She is now making money, doing something dangerous, and she’s able to spend time with Ali. You notice the change in her appearance, the color, and so on. She’s standing tall on her own two feet.

Ali’s next fight is brutal. The guy is a monster, and nearly kills him. Note the color of his pants – blood red. The way these fights are shot is amazing – teeth twirl to the pavement – it’s very lyrical and beautiful, but ugh, so brutal. Ali gets his ass handed to him, but wins the fight, nonetheless. He realizes that he can’t do this for long, the same way.

He returns home to his sister’s house, and she tells him that she’s been fired for taking expired yogurt home from the store. How – because of the video that he was responsible for installing. She kicks him out of the house. Ali leaves town, without saying goodbye to his son, Stephanie, or anyone.

We next see him at a boxing training facility in the mountains. He looks much better. Anna’s husband drives up in his big rig and drops Sam off for a short visit – he’ll be back in the evening to pick him up… Ali takes Sam on a sled through the beautiful snow-covered forests. They come upon a lake, frozen over in the winter. * This is where I cringe and put my notebook up to my face * Long story short, Sam falls into the lake and Ali breaks his hands trying to free him from the ice. Sam goes to the hospital in a coma, and Ali looks on, utterly helpless. He speaks with Stephanie on the phone, and breaks down, sobbing, in the sterile hallway of the hospital.  He wears an Underarmour jacket, with great logo exposure, and look at the colors… NICE WORK, costume department!!

What happens next, I won’t say. Mostly because I can’t find pictures of it, but also because I want you to see this movie. The end is something you probably wouldn’t expect. But I left the theater feeling very satisfied that I had seen a beautiful, well-made film.  The performances were riveting.  I mean, Marion Cotillard is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen, and she goes for guts in this film – no vanity whatsoever.  And Shoenaerts?  Holy smokes – the new Brando, without question.

Incidentally, along the lines of my post about Awards Screening Audience Member letters… a FIGHT broke out in the screening room halfway through this movie – among audience members. This was a screening on the Sony Lot in the Jimmy Stewart Theater. You have to be cleared to go on the lot. They may clear you for guns, but they don’t clear you for being an @$$hole, evidently. It was SO disruptive and immature. Someone didn’t like someone asking them to move, and it escalated into yelling, then people getting out of their seats, then the whole audience yelling. I mean, SERIOUSLY? It’s shocking.  But I’ve already spent time on that soapbox.

On that note, please go see this movie about attraction to danger! It’s really fabulous, and I think that Virginie Montel and her crew did an awesome job. The product placement vendors must be stoked, too – to have your logo on a great actor/s in a great movie… that is a win-win, for sure!

– KMB

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