31 08 2013

I honestly refuse to believe “Miral” was directed by Julian Schnabel.  What part of this mess of a movie that becomes nearly unwatchable could have been helmed by the visionary directory who gave us the soaring, transcendent “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly?”  Someone please tell me who made this borderline unwatchable mess.

Gone is the style of that Academy Award-nominated beauty.  And I guess the heart, the narrative, and any sense of engagement went along with it.  The story of Miral, played by the gorgeous (and might I add talented) Freida Pinto, is one that lands without impact.  When I reread the Wikipedia summary of the film (because it was so bad that I can’t even remember what this movie was about), it could have sent a powerful message about love, education, empowerment, peace, or any number of important themes.  Instead, it just sloppily plods through events as Miral observes the devastation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The drama is terrible and was only minutely compelling when Vanessa Redgrave cameoed at the beginning.  If “Miral” is some kind of a political statement, it’s muddled and unclear.  I have no earthly idea what I was supposed to think or feel other than pure boredom.

I mean, this movie is not just forgettable the moment after you watch it.  “Miral” is forgettable as you watch it.  From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, Schnabel sure knows how to take his fans on a wild roller-coaster ride through his auteur’s journey.  C-1halfstars

F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 19, 2010)

19 03 2010

It’s been a long time since I have been so enthusiastic about presenting a movie as the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

I acknowledge my tendency to sensationalize and exaggerate as a blogger and critic.  In a way, it’s what I have to do to get my feelings across and make it read.  So I throw around a word like triumphant quite a bit.

I’m not sure that I have ever seen a movie that fits the word triumphant better than Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”  Simply put, the film tells the story of one of the greatest triumphs of the human will over obstacles that has even been told – no exaggerating.  And it only makes it more extraordinary to think that the movie is based on a true story.

Yes, it is entirely true that Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle in France, suffered a massive stroke that left him comatose for three weeks.  When he woke up, he found himself a victim of “locked-in” syndrome.  All mental and cognitive functions worked, but nearly all physical functions were shut down because of the lack of activity in the brain stem.

But notice that I didn’t say all physical functions were shut down.  Bauby had one functional body part: his left eye.  Thanks to the help of two patient and ingenious hospital therapists, he eventually learned to talk and communicate not with his mouth, but with this eye.  And as Bauby’s confidence in the system grew, he began fulfilling his previous book contract, albeit in a manner and about a subject that no one could have expected.  His strength and determination shocked everyone, but more importantly, it inspired them.

Director Julian Schnabel, deservedly cited by the Academy for his work, does an excellent job bringing this story to the screen.  He begins the movie by showing us life from Bauby’s new perspective; that is, from a fixed position down below.  We feel the frustration as he tries to speak but slowly realizes that no one can her him.  We sense the disorientation as his right eye fails to catch up to his left.  Slowly, as Bauby comes to terms with his condition, our view expands.  We see Bauby as the world sees him.  We see Bauby as he sees himself.  We see Bauby’s dreams.  By the end of the movie, Schnabel ensures that we have fully explored the man, and he uses plenty of technical weapons in his arsenal to achieve it.  The cinematography and editing, both nominated for Oscars, are absolutely phenomenal.

I feel like triumphant is almost an understatement for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”  It’s the kind of movie that makes you wonder why more foreign films aren’t nominated for Best Picture – this easily makes my top five of 2007.  But I digress; I don’t want this to become a discussion of the politics of movie awards.  This is a movie that shows the power of the human will to overcome the most grueling of physical obstacles in a way that stirs the soul, and it needs to be seen.