Class difference backgrounds in “Sister,” “Rust and Bone”

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Two new foreign films come to the Island this weekend at the MV Film Center. “Sister,” the Swiss Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film, starts Thursday, Jan. 17, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 20. “Rust and Bone,” starring Marion Cotillard as an orca trainer who suffers a terrible injury, will play Friday, Jan. 18, through Sunday, Jan. 20. Class differences provide a backdrop for both.

Directed by Ursula Meier, “Sister” (“l’Enfant d’en Haut”) stars Léa Seydoux as Louise, and Kacey Motte Klein as her 12-year-old brother, Simon. Cinematographer Agnes Godard uses a handheld camera to capture them. The two lead a hand-to-mouth life without parents in an apartment at the base of an upscale Swiss ski resort. Although Louise is in her 20′s, Simon provides most of the income the two manage to scrape together by stealing and selling ski equipment, even filching food from wealthy skiers. Louise slips from one job and boyfriend to another without much thought. “X Files” alumna Gillian Anderson plays Kristin Jansen, a sympathetic skier who befriends Simon, and Martin Compston plays Mike, the seasonal worker who colludes with Simon’s thieving.

Told primarily from Simon’s point of view, “Sister” has been compared by Slant Magazine and others to the work of French directors Jean-Paul and Luc Dardenne, who won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 for their similarly themed film, “l’Enfant.” “Sister” won a Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival and has been nominated for an Independent Spirit Best International Film award. The film was not available for review.

Marion Cotillard, who took home an Oscar in 2008 for her riveting portrayal of French singer Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose,” plays Stéphanie in “Rust and Bone” “(“De Rouille et d’Os”) by French director Jacques Audiard. The film, according N.Y. Times reviewer A.O. Scott (it was not available to this reviewer), shows how hungers––emotional, sexual and other––drive the film’s characters.

After boxer Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) arrives in Antibes on France’s Cote d’Azur with his five-year-old son Sam (Armand Verdure) to live with his sister, he meets up with Marineland trainer Stéphanie. Ali takes on work as a nightclub bouncer and participates in illegal fights. Stéphanie directs her whales in acrobatic performances at an aquarium, until a traumatic incident confines her to a wheelchair, and eventually they begin a liaison. Both characters struggle with physical and emotional injuries, but they help each other to heal in unexpected ways. “Rust and Bone” uses striking special effects to create the illusion that Stéphanie has lost her legs above the knee.

Returning this weekend to the MV Film Center are the experimental film, “Holy Motors,” and Best Documentary Oscar candidate, “Searching for Sand Man.” The MV Film Center is operated by the volunteer-run, nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Film Society.

“Sister,” Thursday, Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 19, 4 p.m.

“Rust and Bone,” Friday, Jan. 18, Saturday, Jan. 19, and Sunday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.

“Holy Motors,” Friday, Jan. 18, 4 p.m.

“Searching for Sugar Man,” Sunday, Jan. 20, 4 p.m.

All films at MV Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $10 ($7 MVFS members). For more information, see www.mvfilmsociety.com.