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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


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Miscellaneous comments to get the thread started.

The story of Jean-Dominique Bauby who at 42 suffered a stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for his left eyelid. He learns to communicate and writes a book, on which the film is based. Directed by Julian Schnabel. Screenplay by Ronald Harwood. (gotta get all the key search words in here) The creative and production team is American.

It's open in Europe. It played this year in Toronto (anybody see it?). Opens in US on Dec. 19 (I have a while to get my review written.) Without saying too much (pending opening) about it, I will note that it would make an interesting twin bill with The Sea Inside. Janusz Kaminski does very interesting cinematography that captures Bauby's world - both internal and external. There is an eating scene that rivals Tom Jones.

In the short director's commentary in the press notes, Schnabel says:

I wanted this film to be a tool, like a book, a self-help device that can help you handle your own death. That's what I was hoping for, that's why I did it.
Edited by Darrel Manson
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I missed a press screening on Thursday due to a work overload. It plays the Vancouver film festival next weekend.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My dad is a big fan of the book. Perhaps I'll have to convince him to come see it with me when it comes out.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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  • 2 weeks later...

I listened to the audio book yesterday. It's really a good work. Doing the book after seeing the film, I recognized pieces of the film -- and places where the screenplay adjusted the book a bit. Overall, I think Harwood did a very good job of adapting the book (which is several brief essays) into more of a narrative.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Finally open, seems like ages since I saw it.

review

write up from press day roundtables

This really is an outstanding work. I've noticed it has a few Spirit Award nominations. Well deserved. It was an interesting (and I think very good) choice to do this in French.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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  • 4 weeks later...

Wow. 3 weeks since it opened here. Has it still not moved out to other cities? Where is the love for this beautiful film? Not that Kaminski needs another Oscar, but I can't imagine anything being a better job of cinematography. This is a film that is truly put together as a piece of art.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Wow. 3 weeks since it opened here. Has it still not moved out to other cities? Where is the love for this beautiful film? Not that Kaminski needs another Oscar, but I can't imagine anything being a better job of cinematography. This is a film that is truly put together as a piece of art.

It's nowhere near my neck of the woods (Morgantown, WV). I'm hopeful the Warner Theater downtown will eventually get it, since they tend to show a lot of artsy/independent/foreign films. I saw two subtitled films there this year: Pan's Labyrinth and The Host.

As of right now, IMDB tells me the nearest theater to me showing Diving Bell is in Bethseda, Maryland (metro Washington). Second closest is Philadelphia, and then you get into the NYC metro area.

Edward Curtis

Morgantown, WV

Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who created his profession. Sirach 38:1 NAB

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: Wow. 3 weeks since it opened here. Has it still not moved out to other cities?

It opens Christmas Day in one theatre in Vancouver (but not in the suburbs, which is where I now live, so this would be a "special trip").

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Snipped from Jeffrey Wells, a quote from Village Voice's Nathan Lee (which I post here just to stir things up)...

"Speaking of polemics, I know I'm not the only one among us who loathes The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, aka My Left Eyelid, aka Awakenings for the smart set. Yes, I'm talking to you, Scott. I'd dis the thing myself, but I'd probably have to watch it again to do so properly, and we all have our limits -- mine came about two minutes into the interminable, pretentious, Brakhage-for-dummies POV shtick at the outset of Butterfly." -- Village Voice critic Nathan Lee in a 1.2.08 posting for the Slate Movie Club.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I confess that I thought of My Left Foot more than once during Diving Bell, but Diving Bell is a more challenging film in many ways. I want to watch it again before making any concrete judgment on it, but I'm much more sympathetic to the raves than I am to Lee's slam. Diving Bell is an interesting movie just to watch, even if you're not overly invested in the protagonist's struggles.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Snipped from Jeffrey Wells, a quote from Village Voice's Nathan Lee (which I post here just to stir things up)...

Ugh. This year's Movie Club has been disappointing (through two postings), and Lee sounds like he's being contrarian just for the sake of it (his rave for Southland Tales is incredibly condescending to other thoughtful pans).

I would definitely need to see Diving Bell before I wrote it off due to any Village Voice critic (and I know you haven't done that Jeffrey....but).

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I'm with Stephanie Z. I'd wouldn't quite name The Diving Bell and the Butterfly my favorite film of the year -- if I ever put together an all-time top 10, it's possible Into Great Silence might make that cut -- but I would say that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the most accomplished cinematic achievement I've seen this year, as well as one of the most humane.

[Corrected] Re: NATHAN LEE: Of course he is free to pass judgment on the film within the first two minutes. I've just done the same with him on the basis of as many sentences.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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I'm with Stephanie Z. I'd wouldn't quite name The Diving Bell and the Butterfly my favorite film of the year -- if I ever put together an all-time top 10, it's possible Into Great Silence might make that cut -- but I would say that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the most accomplished cinematic achievement I've seen this year, as well as one of the most humane.

[Corrected] Re: NATHAN LEE: Of course he is free to pass judgment on the film within the first two minutes. I've just done the same with him on the basis of as many sentences.

Right on, SDG! I'm looking forward to watching this one again, this time with Sarah.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 2 weeks later...

By the way, in case anybody didn't catch this: I finally saw the darned thing, thanks to the generous assistance of a good friend, and I loved it. It landed at #4 on my list for 2007.

But Barbara Nicolosi is not so enthusiastic.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a French movie based on the book written by a man who was totally paralysed by a cerebral hemorrage. He only has control of one eyelid, and through the astonishing love and effort of his care-givers, he is able to write a book by blinking his eye to indicate letters on a chart to spell out words. I get what the filmmakers were trying to do in this project. By limiting the movement and access of the camera, they were trying to approximate the feeling of claustrophobia and disassociation in the -- hmmmmm..... wait. Let me try this.

Here's my own montage of frames to give you a taste of watching this movie. You have to hold on each image for about 90 seconds, and you should shake the computer screen a little while you are holding. (And you can put a recording of someone talking French in the background.)

[Here, Barbara posts a bunch of random images.]

Get the point? I did. In the first ten minutes. Then, I fell asleep and kept jerking awake for the next two hours.

...

My opinion is this is the kind of foreign experimental film that will leave most audience people bored and unsatisfied. As a story, I would give it a pass. As an artistic use of the screen, I give it a shrug and a few nods. Go see it if you like artsy European stuff.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Glad to hear you liked it, Jeffrey. I need to re-do my Top 10 (Top 20?) list soon, but would like to see this one again before I make any changes.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Where should I begin on Nicolosi's comments?

Key is that it's not a French movie. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy (Spielberg's producer - don't think you can get much more "hollywood" that that), Screenplay by a Brit, directed by an American (not mainstream in any sense, but American all the same), cinematography also by Kaminiski (also associated with Spielberg) it was originally planned to star Johnny Depp. This is an American film that happened to be made in French and on location in France. "Foreign experimental film" is blatantly false.

To be sure, Schnabel's artistic vision is different from the way most directors would have delivered this film. It was his choice, for instance, to do the film in French. It was Harwood's idea to make Bauby the camera. I don't see any of this as especially experimental.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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I'm hoping some of us will comment on Barbara's post directly, as she has a lot of readers, and does respond to comments. I don't believe she reads this board.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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OK, I basically pasted what I said above, I'll see what that brings.

On the film, I wonder what some of you thought of the Lourdes scene and the idea of his wanting to do a rewrite of The Count of Monte Cristo and

Bauby's consideration that he may have fated himself into this situation.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Barbara's strong opinionism is the one thing that I absolutely loved and feared about her when I had her as my professor. But I have to say that I disagree with her on this one too. I loved the film and thought it was simply beautiful. Someone mentioned a comparison to My Left Foot, but I couldn't help thinking of The Sea Inside throughout the movie. Of course, they are trying to do different things, but I found it interesting how both films approached the victim's use of imagination as a way of coping with their trapped state. IMHO, The Diving Bell did a better job at this, though I enjoyed both films.

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  • 2 weeks later...
It opens Christmas Day in one theatre in Vancouver (but not in the suburbs, which is where I now live, so this would be a "special trip").

It took me over a month, but I finally made the "special trip" last night. (It entailed walking across the bridge that I used to walk across All The Time during the 6-and-a-half years that I lived downtown. Sigh, memories.)

I'm very glad I made the trip. I wasn't blown away by anything in this film, but there are lots and lots of little touches that I really liked, and which really added up to something.

A part of me wonders if there would ever be a way to hook this guy's eyelid up to that device Stephen Hawking uses.

I love the poetic cinematography, but I am puzzled by the bit with the glaciers/icebergs. The first time we see them, I wondered if there was some sort of "the scales fell from my eyes" thing going on. (Can't remember the exact words that were being said in the voice-over during that scene.) But I don't think that reading would fit with the second use of those images later on.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The crumbling ice suggests things in his life falling apart that he will never have the opportunity to set right. The final image evidently suggests that some sort of atonement was possible, after all. (Much as I love the film, I'm not convinced that the final shot adds to the film.)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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