Doodad Kind of Town

Light at the End of the Tunnel ! Things I’m Looking Forward To
March 26, 2008, 12:33 am
Filed under: George Clooney, Mathieu Amalric, Musicals, Sex and the City, Tina Fey

As I’ve mentioned several times recently, my job and the rest of my life have been kind of kicking my butt lately. I haven’t had much time to see movies or much to blog about.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. With Lent and Easter now over, my church choir commitments have lessened, and the work project I’ve been killing myself over is winding down.

At last, I can get back to the movies!!! And here are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

1. “Invitation to the Dance” Movie Blogathon

Marilyn over at Ferdy on Films is hosting a Dance Movie Blogathon from May 4 to May 10. Look forward to many fine and entertaining posts from fellow movie bloggers. I’ll be contributing a piece myself.

I want to be a dancer in my next life – ’cause in my current life, dance skills are among the talents I definitively do not possess. (During my years of community theatre performing, I heard one thing consistently from choreographers: “Honey, we’re going to put you in the back row.” I used to tell people I was the poster child for the American Society of the Dance Impaired.) Not surprisingly, I have great admiration for those who can do magnificently what I cannot. So I’m looking forward to everyone’s remembrances of great moments in the movies’ dance history.

2. “Leatherheads”

It’s a George Clooney movie. What other reason does a girl need? Opens April 4.

3. “Baby Mama”

If there was a Funniest Woman on the Planet award, Tina Fey would win hands down – and Amy Poehler would be one of the closest runners-up. Unfortunately, Fey didn’t write this one, but that won’t stop me from being there on opening weekend. (April 24)

4. “Heartbeat Detector”

A dark, corporate thriller that Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir calls ” ‘Michael Clayton’ on Nazi-grade Acid.” It stars Mathieu Amalric (of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, it may be a long wait; the soonest I could find a screeing of “Heartbeat Detector” is at the Chicago International Film Festival – in October.

(BTW – If you aren’t reading O’Hehir’s “Beyond the Multiplex” blog, you should start now.)

5. “Sex and the City: The Movie”

I have a confession to make: I LOVED “Sex and the City.” I even still watch the crappy, hacked-to-pieces reruns on TBS. I’ll concede that some of the criticisms of “SATC” are justified. Over its five-year run, it did devolve from sharp-edged, envelope-pushing social satire into a glossy compendium of Madison Avenue product placements. (I don’t think the name ‘Manolo Blahnik’ was dropped once in the show’s first season.) And Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw ran off the rails towards the end, with her early edginess giving way to a dumbed-down shtick of incessant squeals, giggles, and bad puns.

But despite the characters’ too-frequent trips to Barney’s and Carrie’s overused “today, I had a thought…” voiceovers, there was some damn fine writing and acting in that series, and the four leads created full-bodied and indelible characters that I’m looking forward to spending time with again. “Sex and the City” made me laugh and cry – and, yes, also influenced my shoe-buying habits. And I’ll be in the audience on the movie’s opening weekend.


This Weekend at the Multiplex: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
February 3, 2008, 6:19 pm
Filed under: Mathieu Amalric

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Julian Schnabel’s adaptation of the Jean-Dominique Bauby memoir, finally made it to my suburban multiplex this weekend. Unfortunately, it was shown in a tiny auditorium crammed between the two larger ones where the “Hannah Montana” concert film was playing. We therefore experienced large portions of Schnabel’s film accompanied by the only slightly muffled shrieks and squeals of pre-teen girls lining up outside those adjacent theaters. In the end, it was a small matter, though. Even with this unwelcome addition to the soundtrack, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” made for powerful viewing.

Bauby, the former editor of French Elle magazine, suffered a stroke at the age of 42, rendering him paralyzed and completely unable to communicate except by blinking his left eye. His speech therapist devised a way for him to “speak” – and even narrate a memoir – she pointed to letters of the alphabet on a card, and he blinked in response to the letters he needed to build words and then sentences. The story is compelling, but not one that seems inherently cinematic. Fortunately, Schnabel (who directs from a script by Ronald Harwood), finds ways to open the story up and set it free. The opening scene is shot from Bauby’s point of view as he awakes from a three-week coma to find himself paralyzed in a hospital bed, peered at and spoken to by a succession of orderlies, nurses and doctors. It’s effectively choreographed to put us in Bauby’s place, giving us a sense of disorientation and escalating panic. As the film goes on, there are eventual shifts in the point of view, some which allow us to see the stricken Bauby in his wheelchair or being dressed or bathed; his face and body are painfully contorted, and you wonder how actor Mathieu Amalric was able to sustain this posture in extended scenes. Other scenes are flashbacks to Bauby’s former carefree and glamorous life, with Amalric looking jaunty and confident, giving us a full sense of what was lost to his illness.

Schnabel is deft at creating visual images that distill Bauby’s memories and imaginings to their purest essence. One flashback scene begins with a lingering shot of the back a woman’s head as her hair whips and tangles joyously in a breeze. That shot alone tells us everything we need to know about a happy afternoon Bobby spent with a beautiful girlfriend riding beside him in his convertible. Discreet shots from Bauby’s point of view of a woman’s dress settling above her knees as she sits down, or a pendant swinging in the V-neck of woman’s blouse, let us know that Bauby’s sexual appetites are still awake, even if he lacks the ability to act on them.

Where I wish Schnabel had been more successful is in finding similarly effective visual images to convey Bauby’s grief and sorrow; when he tells the speech therapist he wants to die, or sums up an outing with his children by saying his grief is insurmountable, we don’t get any accompanying visual sense of how powerful those emotions are.

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a story of the triumph of the human spirit, but doesn’t entirely feel like one. It’s straightforward and unsentimental about Bauby’s illness, with flashes of mordant humor that undercut its tragedy, and a notable lack of tear-jerking. Maybe that is true to the tone of Bauby’s book (never having read it, I can’t judge); in any case, it’s a refreshing and intelligent approach to an emotionally overwhelming subject.