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Movie Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Alternate Title: Butterflies are Free

Story: I don't usually fawn - but here I go. Director Julian Schnabel is a brilliant filmmaker. His previous films ( Before Night Falls and Basquiat) are pieces of art to be watched over and over again. His latest film is more challenging to a mass audience but if you are bold enough to see it - you will be ennobled by the experience. It is expertly written for the big screen by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) and is based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Suddenly at age 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of French Elle Magazine suffers a stroke. after the stroke he developed a syndrome called 'locked-in' where he became totally paralyzed but for his left eye's ability to blink. How he coped with this tragedy is the heft of the story. We witness a first person scenario as we see what is happening from Bauby's perspective. It is unnerving, horrifying and real. How Bauby uses his imagination and memory to elevate his psyche from this devastating blow is the beauty of the film. Schnabel never becomes mawkish or sentimental over the nightmare Bauby endures. The scenes with his loved ones are rich, true and uplifting.

This film could have been depressing in lesser hands but Schnabel's painterly artist's approach demands that we, the viewer, rise to the occasion.

The film is in French and was shot at the very same hospital where Bauby lived while this happened. If you are looking for a unique cinematic experience, run and see this stunning film.

You can watch Julian Schnabel speak about his film here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1u4vWkgxGnk

Acting: The entire cast is stellar with fabulous performances all around. Mathiew Amalric as Bauby is wonderful. You will not forget his eye opening performance. Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Anne Consigny, as the angels at his side are all beautiful and great to watch. Max von Sydow, in two cameo scenes will break your heart.

Predilection: Before Night Falls is one of my favorite films and I will always go to see a Schnabel film.

Critters: A dog

Food: He is tube fed but there is a birthday cake in one scene.

Sex Spectrum: There is no sex - he is paralyzed. However, he does have lovely memories and there is a bath scene where Bauby is naked.

Soundtrack: As always, Schnabel chooses great songs for his soundtrack and music by Paul Cantelon is terrific.

Opening Titles: The opening title sequence will visually grab you and was a wonderful entry into this superb film.

Visual Art: Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan, Munich, Amistad, etc) is brilliant and brings Schnabel's artistic vision to the screen. Bravo.

Theater Audience: Not very many people on a Thursday afternoon.

Weather: We get to live the entire year of French weather at the hospital at the seashore

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: There is a scene at the beginning of the film shot from Bauby's perspective concerning his right eye that is very squirmy indeed. Just close your eyes and it is over before you know it.

Drift Factor: Not for a nano second.

Predictability Level: High is you know the true story.

Tissue Usage: I did not cry but my movie buddy was a weepy weepster.

Oscar Worthy: Absolutely.

Big Screen or Rental: Big big screen

Length: Under two hours