Dizzyingly claustrophobic. We'll get back to that in a bit.
Every year for the past several, our real estate agent has sent out a card to allow his patrons to watch a free movie at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on a weekend near Valentine's Day. That opportunity came up this past Sunday, and we took advantage, inviting a couple from church to the movies; he allows for up to six free passes to be used, plus $3 off per person at the concession stand on a $5 purchase. Unfortunately, one of our church friends, who we'd seen only an hour earlier, fell ill, so I called one of my work friends, and she called one of our former workmates, Maureen, and we all rendezvoused at the cinema. We had a babysitter for Lydia.
I was looking forward to seeing director Julian Schnabel's Le scaphandre et le papillon, a French film with English subtitles, for a couple reasons. One was that many said that Jean-Dominique Bauby's novel based on his real-life experience of living in an almost totally paralyzed body, save for his left eye, was unfilmable, so I was curious what kind of screenplay Ronald Harwood could come up with. Mostly I was wondering how Schnabel, whose previous films Before Night Falls (2000) and Basquiat (1996) I had enjoyed, would tackle the story.
The first 10 minutes (15? 20? I wasn't looking at a watch) was from inside Bauby's left eye. It was blurry and narrow in scope, dizzyingly claustrophobic, as I said. If people got vertigo from seeing Cloverfield (which I have not seen), I can imagine they might also get the feeling here. Yet, as the perspective changes, as Bauby's sense about his captivity changes, one starts feeling for the people around him, including his family, and even for Bauby himself, the Elle magazine editor who was a bit of of a lothario. I laughed out loud when he realized how beautiful his therapists were and how he was totally incapable of hitting on them, for instance.
As Bauby decides to write his book, using only that left eye, I was reminded of a comment in Salon magazine that said, in essence, that the movie has turned writer's block into a very lousy excuse. One suggestion, however; don't use your rudimentary high school French to try to figure out the words Bauby is trying to say, since the performers are spelling out the words in French, while the screen is spelling them out in English. Just go with the flow of the film.
Schnabel's directing Oscar nomination is well deserved. Recommended. ROG