Release date: Nov. 30 Distributor: Miramax Films
Despite its bold impressionistic storytelling, painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel’s third feature “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” fits squarely into an Oscar tradition: the tale of one man’s triumph over an overwhelming physical handicap. Think Daniel Day-Lewis in his breakthrough performance from “My Left Foot” or Javier Bardem in the 2005 foreign-language Oscar-winner “The Sea Inside.”
Here, it’s French actor Mathieu Amalric who takes on the challenge of portraying a man “locked-in”: At the age of 43, fashion mag editor Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a massive stroke, losing control of his entire body with the exception of a single eye, yet miraculously went onto write a memoir of his experiences. Many journos have already dubbed it “My Left Eye.”
Winner of two major prizes at Cannes — Schnabel for director and a special technical prize for two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski — the film has also drawn numerous plaudits from critics worldwide. “Moving and gorgeously shot,” wrote the New York Times’ A.O. Scott from Cannes.
If the film’s French dialogue could be its own handicap at the Oscars, Kaminski’s dreamy lensing and Amalric’s work have drawn the type of accolades that transcend subtitles, setting up possible Oscar slots. Schnabel’s inventive filmmaking has an outside chance at a directing nom.
The presence of Swedish vet Max Von Sydow, as Bauby’s aging father, also packs an extra emotional wallop. And among a dazzling collection of supporting actresses are Emmanuelle Seigner, as Bauby’s ex-wife, and Marie-Josee Croze as the language decoder.