Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon) DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Adaptation of Stroke Victim’s Memoir

On December 9, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby (1952-1997) suffered a massive stroke which left him in a coma for three weeks. When he regained consciousness, he was completely paralyzed except for being able to blink his left eye.

At the time of the devastating disaster, the freewheeling, 43 year-old editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine (played by Mathieu Amalric) had left his wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) and three kids for the arms of a mistress (Agatha de la Fontaine) who would abandon him soon after his accident. So, it’s no surprise, then, that this unfortunate soul would soon be consumed by both self pity and overwhelming regret.

This is the dire point of departure of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a bittersweet bio-pic based on Bauby’s inspirational memoir of the same name. We see that with the support of very dedicated physical (Olatz Lopez Garmendia) and speech (Marie-Josee Croze) therapists, and the encouragement of Claude (Anne Consigny), the woman who dutifully recorded his dictation, he was helped to transcend his seemingly hopelessly straits and to write a best seller about his feelings and fantasies.

To convey Bauby’s mental metamorphosis cinematically, the movie cleverly widens its visual perspective from narrowly reflecting his physical limitations to one allowing for an assortment of conventional camera angles.

By initially relying on this cinematic device, director Julian Schnabel conveys all the more effectively the plight of the protagonist post-transformation.

Recalled by life, and egged on by his support team, Jean-Dominique discovers that he still has access to cherished memories and a boundless imagination, and so he pours himself into the project with abandon. Unfortunately, he only lived just long enough to see the book published, as he passed away a few days after its release.

The Sea Inside meets My Left Foot.

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for nudity, sexuality and some profanity.

In French and English with subtitles.

Running time: 112 minutes

Studio: Buena Visa Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Director Julian Schnabel’s commentary and interview with Charlie Rose, “The Making of” featurette and more.

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