The Diving Bell and the Butterfly | Chicago Reader

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel's skill as a painter informed his previous two films, Basquiat and Before Night Falls, and it's even more evident in this profoundly moving adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby's best-selling memoir. A celebrated editor for French Elle, Bauby suffered a stroke that left him completely paralyzed except for his left eye, and he learned to communicate again only by blinking the letters of the alphabet, a method devised by his physical therapist. For the movie's first half Schnabel shows everything from the invalid's perspective, using a warm color palette for flashbacks of his family and glamorous lifestyle and a combination of bleached colors and stark lighting for the hospital scenes. As Bauby, Mathieu Almaric makes an astounding physical transformation; the strong supporting cast includes Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie Josée-Croze, Max von Sydow, Niels Arestrup, Isaach de Bankolé, and Olatz Lopez Garmendia.

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