Blood From a Stone: Film Review

Poor structure likely to leave shipyard drama foundering.

Each month, it seems, brings a new batch of social dramas from the French movie industry, a succession of businessmen, bankers, strikers and workers struggling to get to grips with the realities of economic recession. Jacques Maillot's Blood from a Stone has all of these but there's a sense of diminishing returns in this laboured tale of a shipbuilding company being forced onto the rocks. Maillot's intentions are laudable but not even the presence of Daniel Auteuil is likely to keep the movie from foundering at the local box-office or bring much wind to its sails overseas.

Auteuil plays Georges Pierret, the founder-chairman of a formerly flourishing shipyard who finds that dwindling sales in the pleasure boating market force him to ever more desperate measures to stay afloat after a once-supportive bank decides to impose stringent conditions on its supply of credit.

Georges is a boss of the old school, paternalistic but benevolent and conscientious regarding the welfare of his workers. One of the film's merits is the way it examines the human consequences of the bank's decision - the souring of relations with the local unions, the divisions among the workers themselves between compromisers and hardline militants, the defection of trusted colleagues.

However the story is poorly structured, with clunky subplots that do not add significantly to the main theme and a set of near-caricatures as villains (the bankers and business rivals, naturally). A brief romance between shopfloor worker Luis (Yann Tregouet) and apprentice cabinet-maker Jessica (Maud Wyler) breaks up when Luis, a hardline militant, opts for sabotage. And the love-affair between Georges and Elena (Xenia Buravsky), a young translator-fixer he employs in Moscow while waiting to meet a prospective Russian saviour, is wholly unconvincing, if not outright embarrassing. Georges's occasional hallucinatory visions of his long-dead wife, presumably intended to heighten his sense of loneliness, are a further distraction from the matter in hand.

The movie justifies its title in its portrayal of a man rapidly approaching the end of his tether (and he's not the only character subject to outbursts of anger or despair) but utltimately has nothing to say about the current crisis if it's not that it's a mean old dog-eat-dog world out there. Maillot uses Cinemascope to bathe his characters in Mediterranean sunlight. He's on solid ground with his observation of the working environment but he gets the ending badly wrong and the abiding impression is of a movie that is all at sea.

Release date: Feb. 22, 2012
Production company: LGM Cinema
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Yann Tregouet, Maud Wyler, Alain Beigel, Moussa Maaskri, Carole Franck, Xenia Buravsky
Director: Jacques Maillot
Writer: Jacques Maillot, Pierre Chosson
Producer: David Giordano
Production design: Mathieu Menut
Photography: Luc Pages
Editor: Andrea Sedlackova
Music: Stephan Oliva
Sales: Wild Bunch
No MPAA rating
Running time: 98 minutes