There's more "directing" per square inch of Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly than in any movie this year, with the possible exception of Michael Bay's Transformers. Yet some of the same people who criticize Bay for his attention-deficient aesthetics are falling over themselves to praise Schnabel for having created an artistic masterpiece. Adapted from the bestselling memoir by the late Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (played here by French star Mathieu Amalric), who was felled at age 43 by a stroke that left him completely paralyzed, save for the ability to blink one eye (with which he managed to "dictate" his book, letter by letter), it's the sort of movie that gets advertised as "an inspiring testament to the power of human imagination." But what good is a movie about imagination in which the director does so much imagining for the audience blurred images and distorted wide angles meant to represent Bauby's point of view, thuddingly literal fantasy sequences meant to represent his waking dreams that we can't get a thought in edgewise? There are some affecting scenes scattered throughout, mostly having to do with Bauby's multiple mistresses and his nonagenarian father (Max von Sydow). Far too much of the film, however, feels grotesquely calculated and festooned with inspirational platitudes a butterfly with lead for wings.
Julian SchnabelMathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, Patrick Chesnais, Niels Arestrup, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Marina Hands, Max von SydowJean-Dominique Bauby, Ronald HarwoodJim LemleyMiramax Films