Monday, October 6, 2008

DVD Club, Vol. 2

As promised in this installment of the DVD Club I will review Control and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Both were fantastic films that I've wanted to see since they came out.


Of all the recent biopics of deceased musicians, this is definitely the coolest I've seen. It tells the story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band Joy Division who committed suicide at the age of 23. It shows his troubles with relationships, his health (he was an epileptic), and his sudden rise to fame. I must admit I was not very familiar with the band before watching the film. I liked the 2 or 3 songs I knew by them ("Love Will Tear Us Apart" being the most famous) but wouldn't call myself a fan.

So my main reason for seeing the film was the acclaim it received from critics--which proved to be warranted. It was beautifully shot in black and white. The director, Anton Corbijn, is a famous rock photographer which is especially evident during the quiet, lingering shots of Curtis. Samantha Morton is brilliant as Curtis' loyal wife. I love her and think she is beautiful in an unconventional way.

I would like to say that Sam Riley, the actor who plays Curtis, really captured the singer's essence. But since I wasn't even alive when Curtis died and (as stated) don't know that much about him, I can't really do that. However, I will say that his depiction of a lonely young man struggling through life and love was absolutely compelling and utterly enthralling.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In other beautifully depressing films, I also rented The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon for you French speakers...big up to our readers in France!). This tells the true story of former French Elle editor-in-chief, Jean Dominique Bauby, who after having a stroke suffers from "locked in syndrome" a condition that leaves him completely paralyzed minus his left eye. Despite his vegetable like physical state, he remains fully cognizant with a mind as sharp as ever. To communicate his therapist develops a system where he blinks as she recites the alphabet (I don't feel like explaining it, watch the film!). Eventually he authors an entire book through the blinking system. Imagine that.

This film is meant to inspire, but not in the 'man beats the odds, overcomes adversity' way that has become so formulaic. It inspires by showing how one man finds beauty in life at a time when it is most inconceivable. He finds it through vision, memories, imagination, family, ideas, and words. And the director Julian Schnabel, famous artist and Oscar nominee, captures this beauty remarkably. The camera takes on different perspectives--a first person angle through the eyes of Bauby complete with blinking really brings home the message. This is one of the most moving films I've seen in a long time.

It also reminded me of one of my favorite books, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, which is about a disabled WWI soldier suffering from locked in syndrome. The flashbacks, the stream of consciousness, the struggle to communicate. They're all there. I would recommend it to anyone who likes this movie, or in general to anyone who wants to read a good book.

Lesson learned from this weeks installment: when an artist makes a film, its probably going to turn out pretty fantastic. Next time I review John Adams (miniseries) and Pollock.

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