Set in the 1920s, the film stars Cotillard as Sonya, one of two immigrant sisters who travel to New York, only to see the other sister become deathly ill. In order to help her, Cotillard heads down a dark path where she sells herself for money and medicine, eventually falling for a charming magician (Renner), the cousin of the sleaze who keeps her turning tricks (Phoenix).
While clearly not completely color timed yet, the five minute teaser of "Nightingale," featured the incredible textured and shadow-heavy work of DP Darius Khondji. Showing off a sequence in a church in New York's Lower East Side, "Nightingale" is Gray's most overt period-piece ("We Own The Night" was set in the 1980s), but looks as moody, atmospheric and sombre as his previous pictures, this time strengthened by some incredible art direction and, at least in this scene, the solemn religious iconography.
In the scene, Marion Cotillard's prostitute character Sonya is in church praying, and then takes a confessional. "I'm ashamed," she said through weepy tears and a tattered black shawl, before launching into all her crimes and misdemeanors: lying, theft of food, her rape, and ultimately the revelation that she's been whoring herself out to help pay and take care of her sick sister.
Having just come off the boat from Poland a few months previously coming to the American promised land, it appears that Sonya's dream of a better life is actually worse than she can imagine. "We were caged like animals," Cotilard said about the voyage on a ship to North America. Her rape was public knowledge on the boat and she says she's damaged goods, hence having to prostitute herself.
Seemingly waiting to exploit her when she got off the boat is her pimp, Joaquin Phoenix, who in this scene, surreptitiously follows her into the church and eavesdrops on her confession. Renner’s character didn’t feature in what felt like it was probably a scene from early on in the movie.
While brief, it was a tantalizing teaser of what's to come, and given that Gray’s previous films, which include “The Yards,” “We Own The Night” and “Two Lovers” (all of which starred Phoenix), only seem to grow in power, and critical stature, over time, it’s clearly one of the pictures we’re mostly looking forward to in 2013. "Nightingale," will arrive in theaters sometime in 2013 via the Weinstein Company. Our guess would be sometime during the Oscar season, with a stop over in Cannes in May more than likely. Stay tuned for more from the Cotillard tribute, and from Telluride, very soon.