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Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

December 8, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the (mostly) true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful Elle magazine editor who one day finds himself completely paralyzed with “locked in syndrome,” having suffered a stroke. He eventually learns to communicate using eye blinks and writes a moving and well-received memoir.

In addition to being a good story, it’s always fascinating to watch actors portray people of vastly limited physical (or mental) capabilities. Mathieu Amalric does a terrific job playing Jean-Do, so if you are also drawn to these kind of performances you won’t be disappointed.

It’s even got Max Von Sydow as Jean-Do’s father. I loved the scene where (in flashback) Jean-Do shaves his aging father. (DE razor and a brush, of course.)

Olatz López Garmendia plays his physical therapist. She gives a good performance, but it was her face more than anything that intrigued me, perhaps because of all the close-ups. I was surprised, however, at how difficult it proved to determine her name. The film’s wikipedia entry has a link for her, but there is no article on her at the other end. Popping the names of the female actresses into a Google image search resulted in a variety of images–many of which were of the actress who played the speech therapist, or of women not associated with the film at all. I think I finally got it figured out, though:

Here she is (left) alongside Marie-Josée Croze (or is it Anne Alvaro?) who played the speech therapist.

Is it always this hard to confirm who’s who in a foreign film?

In any case, I had been avoiding this film for a while, thinking it was going to be “pretty heavy,” or perhaps even “a downer.” If you’ve also been in this boat, don’t worry: it wont depress you for the rest of the evening. Go rent it.

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