I recently caught Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, the winner
of the Best Director’s award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and liked it a good bit — almost as much for its modes of conveyance, surprisingly, as its story.
Based on a true story and the highly lauded book of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the film tells the story of the successful and charismatic
editor-in-chief of French Elle (Mathieu Amalric, above right), who suffers a sudden stroke that leaves him in a life-altered state. Beset by physical challenges and left with little hope for a normal future, he discovers escape in memories and
a rekindled imagination. The film is the very definition of a tough
sell, but still an evocative and rather subtly moving portrait of a castaway
soul. It’s a movie that highlights and plays up elements of shared humanity rather than
just differences, what’s been robbed from Jean-Dominique. The first 12 to 15
minutes or so are a fascinating exercise in subjectivity, told from his warped point-of-view; particularly amazing is a scene in which Jean-Dominique gets one of his eyes stitched shut, to ward off sepsis. It doesn’t yet have a live web site, but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly releases from Miramax on December 19 in New York and Los Angeles, followed by a national rollout later that month, into the first of the year; for those in Los Angeles, it also screens twice at the upcoming AFI Fest, with cast and crew in attendance.