Fox Searchlight Pictures, Rated PG-13
Are directors possibly closet serial killers?
This loaded question has already long been mulled at least jokingly, about surgeons. But filmmaker Sacha Gervasi seems to take this notion to unusual extremes, with his brash biopic, Hitchcock.
Anthony Hopkins projects a rather stiff and self-conscious replica of Hitchcock, fat suit, facial prosthetics and all, more as if preening for a masquerade ball than disappearing into a character.
It’s 1959, and though the recipient of audience accolades, most recently for North By Northwest, the 60-year-old Hollywood celebrity, like many with a creative mind, remains in a state of restless, fierce one-upmanship with his most disturbing competitor—himself.
Obsessively driven to set a formidable personal goal of hopefully elevating the cheap thrills of horror to high art, Hitchcock, in the face of disapproval and ridicule—from both Paramount Studios and his wife and former boss Alma (Helen Mirren) that he’s now overshadowed—latches on to a real life grisly tale that played out in rural Wisconsin.
He then incredulously sets about buying up every copy of the book written about the matricidal necrophiliac in question, so the content of his movie might remain shrouded in secrecy, not to mention displaying a fanatical, deliciously dark relish for the project, that Gervasi is not shy about intimating as a close parallel to his compulsive eating disorder binging.
As a journey through Hitchcock’s presumed dark side indulging a mischievous brew of wit laced with a rich fantasy life crowded with his many blonde starlets, and a malicious cocktail of vicarious perversions, Gervasi makes his case for the director as the sublimated deviant persona hidden beneath the creepy layers driving Norman Bates. In that gory, graphic gender bender long, before that term had even entered the public imagination.
And whether you buy it or not, that may be a case of blind faith. Ditto for Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel as not exactly pulling off the respective vintage screen goddesses Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, whom they play.
RUST AND BONE
Sony Pictures Classics, Rated R
Sex and disability seems to be a hot topic in movies lately. On the heels of Helen Hunt peddling therapeutic sex lessons for sale to John Hawkes’ nearly completely paralyzed virgin confined to an iron lung in The Sessions —and not such a stretch considering what befell his character’s unfortunate body parts as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone—comes Marion Cotillard’s double amputee lust junkie in Rust And Bone (De Rouille Et D’Osstars).
Written and directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (The Prophet) and adapted from a short story collection by American writer Craig Davidson, Rust And Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie. She eagerly engages in an unusual gig as a trainer and performer with orca whales at the Marineland park in Antibes, on the Cote d’Azur in Southern France.
Avidly athletic as well is Alain, played by Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts—who nearly devoured the screen as a ferociously buffed up steroid guzzler in last year’s crazed controlled substance crime thriller, Bullhead.
No less a menacing brutish grouch in Rust And Bone, Alain is a club bouncer and aspiring bare knuckles boxing contender by day.
The odd couple with somewhat compatible emotionally frigid dark sides encounter one another by chance, when the strictly one-night-stand womanizer Alain drives Stephanie home from the club one evening to the apartment of her less-than-pleased live-in lover. This, after she’s found sprawled on the sidewalk at the losing end of a drunken encounter. End of that story.
But when Stephanie loses her legs in an accident and starts summoning Alain to help her with some daily activities, he takes quality time out from brawling and babe-scoring around town, for no particular reason.
Alain also has a few unsavory sideline activities going on at the same time, that include the single dad brutalizing his young son when not setting up surveillance gadgets in factories, to keep tabs on worker infractions and get them fired, none of which seems to dampen Stephanie’s love jones for this unsavory guy.
And without revealing too much, though you’ve likely figured out where all this is headed anyway, everybody finally sees the light on fast forward with happy endings all around, and in the absence of just about anything to warrant those radical personality transformations, even if the dynamic, intense performances on hand tend to serve as cover for the shallow storytelling.
As for Alain, he eventually decides that entry into full-time boxing is the way to go, to find dignity and get liberated from worker exploitation.