The good part about being home from school for the first half of January? LOTS of time to watch LOTS of movies. The bad part about going back to school for the second half of January? No time to write about all those movies from the first half. This is why I keep telling myself to write about the films as I see them, but that never ends up happening. Ah well.
After the jump, reactions to Atonement, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, There Will Be Blood, Weekend, Hairspray, All the President’s Men, All That Jazz, Easy Rider, Go, Papillon, Sherrybaby, The Crying Game, and several others.
Director Julian Schnabel is also an artist; in fact, he prefers to be known as a painter rather than as a filmmaker. That visual background serves The Diving Bell and the Butterfly perfectly in its story of a 42-year-old fashion editor who undergoes a sudden stroke, leaving him completely paralyzed except for his left eye. He can still hear, but his world is largely rendered through what he can see and eventually, what he can remember seeing. Jean-Do, the playboy senior editor of the French Elle magazine, struggles with his condition, which is termed “locked-in syndrome”–a perfectly healthy mind trapped in a husk of a body, a condition he likens to being trapped underwater in a diving bell. One of his first full sentences (once his speech therapist Henriette has worked out a system of communication using winks) indicates his wish to die; it takes time for him to learn to appreciate what he still has and to rely on his imagination and memory.
The film as a whole is one of great beauty and sensitivity, with Schnabel and two-time Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski bringing an impressionistic touch to the scenes of Jean-Do’s imagination and memory, as well as to the first third of the film, which is almost completely filmed from Jean-Do’s point of view. As Jean-Do moves outside of himself, accepting the emotional investment that Henriette and his dictation-taker Claude (and also his ex-girlfriend Celine) have given him, the camera does as well, taking a third-person view. The danger in a film like this would be to list toward sentimentality, but Schnabel never does that. We care about Jean-Do, but his wry voice-over (taken mostly from the book written by the real-life inspiration for the story) and the caring but never maudlin camera allows a dark humor that keeps the film from becoming yet another heroism-in-the-face-of-adversity stories.
As to Schnabel’s claim to be a painter first and a filmmaker second, he may have a hard time defending his preference after having made such a wonderful film.
Haven’t done a trailer watch for a while. Most of the things I’m most interested in, especially this time of the year, are limited release films, and it feels weird to plug them when they come out when I know that I and most everyone I know won’t be able to see them for at least a few weeks, if then. So it’s sort of weird. But there are some things coming out that I’m super-excited about. Most of these are coming out in the next couple of months.
opens December 5th, limited
CURRENT MOST ANTICIPATED. I want to see it two months ago. Except if I had I couldn’t be enjoying the anticipation so much right now. Ellen Page is one of the best young actresses in Hollywood right now hands down, Michael Cera is adorable, plus Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. And it’s a total festival darling of exactly the type that I always love. I’m also pleased that screenwriter Diablo Cody is getting as much attention as she is; screenwriters don’t get noticed as much as they should, and she was getting noticed even before the strike. Ooh, and I forgot until I just watched the trailer again–Thank You For Smoking was one of my favorite films last year, so I’m a fan of the director, too.
opens December 7th
After I see Juno, Atonement will become my CURRENT MOST ANTICIPATED. Of course, that won’t last long, since it comes out two days later. Ah well. The book is one of the best I’ve read all year, the cast is great, it’s the same guy that directed Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago (which quickly became one of my favorite Austen adaptations), and pretty much every review I’ve seen from the festival circuit has been nothing short of glowing. Read the book, folks, then go see the movie. Simple as that.