( M) IN 1995, Jean- Dominique Bauby, the 43- year- old editor of French Elle magazine, was felled by a near- fatal stroke, leaving him physically immobilised while his brain remained aware of everything happening to and around him, a condition called lockedin syndrome. Sophisticated, urbane, talented, he responded by learning — grudgingly — to communicate by blinking his one good eye. With the help of a transcriber, he wrote a bestseller about his experiences. Julian Schnabel turned the book into this wonderful film. Diving Bell deserved its many accolades: Schnabel won best director at Cannes in 2007 and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski took the technical award. Strangely, they were overlooked at the Oscars. Ronald Harwood’s script is first rate, eschewing cheap sentiment, and Schnabel’s classy cast performs with great honesty. Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby, with Emmanuelle Seigner as his former wife. Marie- Josee Croze teaches him a new alphabet and Max von Sydow is Bauby’s aged father, also trapped in an unresponsive body. Imagery from nature, such as glacier ice crashing into the sea, symbolises Bauby’s interior life: the butterfly that allows him to escape from his painful, dead- weight body. Not long before the stroke, Bauby had dumped his wife and family for a younger model, and being paralysed doesn’t turn him into a saint, but Amalric makes him shine. In French, with subtitles.
Rosalie Higson EXTRAS: Commentaries; featurettes
Icon ( 112 minutes) $ 39.95