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'Diving Bell,' Plumbing the Depths of the Human Condition

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY"

Damn you, Schnabel!

Julian Schnabel is a hugely successful painter, a bon vivant of Falstaffian appetites, a man with a beautiful wife, homes in Manhattan and Montauk, interesting friends, and he has the nerve also to be a gifted filmmaker, too. In 1996 he made a surprisingly assured directing debut with "Basquiat," about the storied 1980s artist; four years later Schnabel came out with the stunning "Before Night Falls," a lush, lyrical, deeply moving portrait of the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas.

And now, Schnabel has made "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," an adaptation of a memoir written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, who in 1995, at age 43, succumbed to a stroke that left him completely paralyzed save for his left eye. (He "blinked" out the manuscript, one letter at a time; the book was published just days before Bauby's death in 1997.)

Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby in "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," which was well received at Cannes, where one critic praised the film as "compelling" and "a dreamlike collage of memories and fantasies."

As for us, we have to wait until Christmas to see "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Like I said: Damn you, Schnabel!

"THE SAVAGES"

It's been nearly a decade since we last heard from Tamara Jenkins, who in 1998 made the quirky semi-autobiographical dramedy "Slums of Beverly Hills." (Some of us have been fans since seeing her 1993 short film, "Family Remains," a study in deeply saturated Southern Gothic.) Jenkins's new film, "The Savages," due in December, stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a sister and brother who are suddenly forced to deal with their aging and ailing father (Philip Bosco). Considering the actors and Jenkins's own shrewd eye for drama, humor and detail, "The Savages" has potential to break out of dysfunctional-family cliches and deliver something new to the genre.

-- Ann Hornaday

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