Thursday, January 3, 2008


One of the best films of 2007—maybe THE best.

Directed by Julian Schnabel, whose broken-crockery artwork didn’t appeal to me back in the ‘80s when he was a downtown neighbor becoming famous in the art world, but who’s willingness to take big risks always did.

This is a big risk: to film an adaptation of a book written by a relatively young man (40s) with “locked-in syndrome”—unable to move any part of his body except one eyelid, which a dedicated hospital worker took advantage of by devising a system of naming letters until he blinked and putting the letters together to make words and sentences and eventually the book that became an international sensation when it was published ten days before the man, the editor of French ELLE, died.

But Schnabel turns out to be the perfect person to make a film that is mostly from the perspective of a paralyzed “locked-in” man. Visually the film is stunning, as you might expect, but even more than that, it is possibly the most sensuous movie I’ve seen in years.

Like only a handful of movies I’ve seen this year, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is just about perfect. The acting is superb, and what is it about European women, in this case French women, that makes them so appealing, no matter their age (yes most in the film are youngish and attractive, but not in that plastic Hollywood way, with real lines in their faces and sometimes unattractive postures or expressions, etc.)?

The writing and the cinematography are a perfect fit for the subject, and the directing is worthy of all the awards, though I doubt Hollywood will even recognize it, especially since Schnabel chose to film it in French with subtitles.

But if it’s showing anywhere near you, I highly recommend it. It’s truly a masterpiece.

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