Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Quick catch-up

I just posted my list, but never shared my opinion of the two films I saw over the weekend: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "There Will Be Blood." Is it enough to say both were great?

Seriously, "Blood" is a stupendous film. It's so non-Hollywood: stark, bold, unapologetic. The first 10 minutes or so have almost no dialogue, and very little light. We're in an 1890's mine shaft with Daniel Day Lewis as oilman Daniel Plainview, listening to nothing but his breathing, trying to make out the shape of his hand in the darkness. And because of that, we're in a mine shaft with Daniel Plainview. And then you're totally with him for the next two hours, even as you have no comprehension of what makes this man tick. You just watch him tick, wildly, insanely, and hold on tight for the ride. The last few scenes, where later in life he is confronted by some of the other characters he's wronged along the way, are brutal in their intensity, both physical and emotional. This is a movie without redemption or explanation, and it's all the better for it.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" also deserves all of the kudos it is getting, as it's a remarkable film, allowing the viewer to practically climb inside Jean Dominique Bauby, the magazine editor who became almost completely paralyzed after a massive stroke at age 42. The camera work is amazing; for most of the movie you see only what he can see, with his limited mobility, and the result is claustrophobically terrifying. He learns to communicate by blinking his left eye, and writes a memoir on which this true film is based. It sounds terribly dull, but in fact it's very light-hearted, as he has a very comedic voice and fanciful nature. He dreams, he fantasizes, and he remembers, and the film goes with him, escaping the narrow view of his paralyzed world in joyful escapades. All the reviews point out the lyrical quality of the letters the beautiful French women who help him "speak" recite, and it's true. I walked home from the theater singing the French alphabet.


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