The holiday season has begun, and its requisite songs celebrating snowy landscapes dominate radio stations. "Sleigh Bells", "Winter Wonderland", "Let It Snow" and other tunes are as much a part of Christmas as trees and tinsel. We should enjoy the frigid phenomenon they celebrate while we can since, as the makers of the new documentary Chasing Ice illustrate, it probably won’t last much longer.
Chasing Ice (now playing in Los Angeles and New York before a national rollout) reveals the staggering damage done to Earth’s ice caps as a result of human-caused global warming via stunning time-lapse photography shot between 2007 to 2010. National Geographic photographer James Balog and his crew perched cameras on the edge of millennia-old glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Alaska and other historically snow-covered spots. When they retrieved the footage a few years later, they were stunned — as viewers will be — by the shockingly rapid pace of melt they captured. The results are not only now-barren wilderness but also rising sea levels with decreased salinity that is impacting life both in the ocean and on land. The reduction in ice is also contributing to a global rise in temperature and increasing ferocity of hurricanes and other “superstorms.”
So long as filmmaker Jeff Orlowski keeps his focus on the findings from Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) and the researcher’s subsequent efforts to educate the world about global warming, Chasing Ice is gripping. Occasional diversions into knee surgery that Balog had to undergo and logistical hardships his team endured seem calculated and excessive. This award-winning testament to disaster need provide no greater human interest than the obvious natural effects we will all soon suffer.
Jacques Audiard’s unsparing drama Rust and Bone is also screening now in NY and will open in LA on December 7th. I first wrote about the film a few weeks back in my preview of AFI Fest, where it received a special screening. Marion Cotillard (who won the Best Actress Academy Award for La Vie En Rose and seems a shoo-in for a nomination this year for her exceptional work here) plays Stephanie, a whale trainer at Marineland in the south of France who loses both her legs during a performance gone bad. While I was grateful that Audiard depicts this accident minimally and tastefully, it also left me wondering exactly what happened.
Now confined to a wheelchair, Stephanie reaches out to a club bouncer she had met briefly prior to the accident. Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts, the terrific, previously unknown star of last year’s Oscar-nominated Bullhead) is a brutish, washed-up fighter with a little boy who has had to move in with his sister and her husband. Although Ali accuses Stephanie of being a whore during their initial encounter, he’s the one who has sex with women indiscriminately and farms himself out for small-scale boxing matches to make money.
Stephanie and Ali gradually find wounded common ground, and more, between them. A subplot about Ali installing surveillance cameras in unsuspecting workplaces seems extraneous, and Ali’s young son is forced to undergo a considerable amount of physical and emotional trauma during the course of the film. Rust and Bone isn’t a love story for everyone, but many will find it and its two lead performances undeniably powerful.
Chasing Ice: B+
Rust and Bone: B
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.