Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)

I decided to take advantage of being on vacation in the Big Apple to see The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, which hadn't opened in my town as of yet. Despite the sticker shock of a mid-afternoon movie costing $12, Julian Schnabel's masterpiece was completely worth it. The story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, an Elle magazine editor who, at age 42, had a stroke that left him completely paralyzed, except for his eyes. One of them, however, has to be sewn shut almost right away, for fear that it wil get infected. The movie begins from Jean-Do's perspective, from which much of the movie is shown. Jean-Do can speak, but only in his mind. We can hear his internal dialogue, and he is a real, fully-formed character in every way.

Mathieu Amalric plays Jean-Do with remarkable empathy. We understand the pain and frustration Jean-Do is going through -- when he, with the help of his speech therapist, finally get down the complex way of allowing Jean-Do to communicate with the outside world, the first thing he says is that he wants to die. It's a heartbreaking moment, for audience and therapist alike. But soon, Jean-Do decides to stop pitying himself, realizing that his imagination and memory are still intact; he takes his editor up on the offer he had pre-stroke to have a book published. The rest has to be seen.

Jean-Do learns to survive as best he can with the help of four really remarkable women -- his speech and physical therapists, his ex-wife, and the "translator" from his publisher. Instead of being completely isolated through his condition, these women help him to remember the outside world, and live a little bit outside of himself. He does have other friends who come to visit him, but his former life (girlfriend included) seems to have forgotten him completely. Even though all these hurdles come up for Jean-Do, this is never a melodramatic, Lifetime channel-style weep fest. In fact, my tears only came in the last half hour of the movie. All the performances are truly stellar, and Schnabel's incredible direction brings the film into the realm of art -- the fuzzy shots from Jean-Do's early perpective and the sense of claustrophobia in Jean-Do's diving bell are among the most beautiful directorial moments I've ever seen. I'm still picking the Coens to win the best director Oscar, but Schnabel really, truly deserves it. One of the definite best films of 2007.


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Comments on "The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:56 AM) : 

I loved "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", but the movie I'd rather see is "My Stroke of Insight", which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there's a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It's been spread online millions of times and you'll see why!


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