11.21.2007

An Eye With a View


Don't miss this unexpected masterpiece—Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon)—directed by Julian Schnabel, which screened at the Mill Valley Film Fest, based on the French language novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Schnabel concentrates his megalomaniac sensibility by restricting it to the view from behind one man's last bit of self-control, his post-stroke unparalyzed eye.

Scott Foundas of the L.A. Weekly called it "disability porn." It must have made Scott uncomfortable to witness the strong artistic and sexual urges of a massively paralyzed writer projected and magnified to the size of Schnabel's canvas with the gravitas of Jean-Do's cerebro-vascular condition. Let's remember the story comes from Bauby himself, not some John Doe Hollywood screenwriter. It's an autobiography, true, devoid of sap. I find Scott's comments condescending, to say the least. How could he call this utterly human story pornographic,—because it turned him on; because the photography was thrilling; the vantage point zoomed in; and the voyeurism used to great effect?

My only complaint is that the spelling portions of the film couldn't be well translated from French to English.

Cinematical has written a lengthy and supportive review in the film's defense.

By the way, don't watch the trailer, it'll give you the wrong impression. This isn't about driving through the French countryside in a fancy car with dolled-up children and a manicure.

10 comments:

Brian said...

Too late! I already caught the trailer while at a Landmark Theatre. I never watch trailers online, but sometimes they're all but unavoidable.

I hope I like the film as much as you did!

SisterRye said...

Hopefully the trailer didn't spoil it for you. I'm looking forward to your reaction. Schnabel is a big Antonioni fan. You might notice the resulting brutalism and beauty.

Michael (http://mss.typepad.com) said...

I'm not sure if you've seen this, but in The New Yorker, David Denby (who sometimes hits, sometimes misses) expressed genuine love for the film. Here's the URL:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2007/12/03/071203crci_cinema_denby

Michael (http://mss.typepad.com) said...

Oops. The URL seems to have been cut off a bit -- but if you just go to www.newyorker.com, you can find the review in the arts section.

SisterRye said...

Oh, good. I just read it. Thanks for pointing it out, Michael. I'm glad it's getting good reviews, like DD's.

SisterRye said...

I'm going to see Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries at the PFA on Thursday night. I've never seen it, only clips and stills.

Brian said...

I might just make it to that one myself. Never seen it on the big screen.

Michael (http://mss.typepad.com) said...

sisterrye, I look forward to reading your thoughts on the Bergman film if you're so inclined to blog about them. It's one of the major Bergman films I've yet to see (along with Cries and Whispters, which I've got sitting at home and haven't watched).

SisterRye said...

OK, Michael. I'll see if I have time to write a little something. Thanks for your interest. Wild Strawberries coming soon…

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Just tossing another bit of support, mind you, MONTHS LATER!, towards your feelings about DIVING BELL...!

I LOVED IT! It is a work of art!!

Jay