“It’s funny that the most hopeful, great movie of 2007 (based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby) centers on a man (played by Mathieu Amalric) whose massive stroke leaves everything paralyzed except one eye,” notes New York critic David Edelstein in a 2007 wrap-up piece. “But his mind is unfettered, and so is the palette of Julian Schnabel — who turns out to be a major filmmaker, an artist whose grasp of light and texture and camera movement is both visually inspired and fused with the characters’ emotions. Somehow, the hero’s plight becomes a metaphor for the human condition: It reminds us how submerged we all are, how distant from even the people we love.”
Yup, an excellent film. Schnabel is a major-league visualist who took an unappealing solitary-confinement situation and made it into something gloriously imaginative, transcendent and universal. Why, then, was I praying for this impassioned film, beautifully made as it was, to end as quickly as possible? Why couldn’t I submit to the metaphor and identify with a totally paralyzed man and go with the notion that we’re all blinking our eyelashes (if only we could do more!) in order to convey our innermost whatever?
Because I’m not paralyzed, dammit, and I’d rather not be, not even by cinematic proxy. Because, thank fortune or fate or whatever or whomever, I’m alive and healthy and able to say and do, write and create, debate and engage…far from oblivion and delighted not to be bed-ridden or imprisoned or ruined in some godawful way, thank you. And not very interested in being a prisoner of any kind (even briefly) until I have no choice in the matter. No bars on my windows, no way and no how.