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NYFF: “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly.”

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"Hold fast to the human inside of you."
If, as a colleague suggested, each of Julian Schnabel‘s now three supposed biopics are really just all about him, then we must be getting fonder of the footwear-averse artist/filmmaker, because we rather liked "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly." Adapted from the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, the film is the story of a mid-life transformation — Bauby was the editor-in-chief of Elle and the possessor of a glamorous lifestyle, a mistress, a wife and two children when a stroke left him, at age 43, almost completely paralyzed. Mentally intact, he couldn’t talk or move beyond blinking his left eye, a condition called locked-in syndrome. The film picks up as Bauby, voiced and eventually played by Mathieu Amalric, awakens, and it consists for a while only of an intriguing if gimmicky shot from his extremely restricted point of view, the focus warping, characters leaning into his field of vision to talk to him. It’s suffocating, as it should be, as Bauby realizes what happened and goes from rage to self-pity to self-disgust to a kind of acceptance that leads him to write the book on which the film is based with the help of a woman who recites a rearranged alphabet to him. He blinks when she reaches the letter he’d like. Then they start over from the beginning.

Schnabel likes his stylishness and gimmicks, and "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly" is a film perfectly suited to that fact. Bauby can’t move — his only escape is his memory and his imagination, and both flood the film in hectic, more than vivid imagery. He summons the Empress Eugénie, his hospital’s original patroness, to walk the halls in a rustling gown, while Nijinsky performs a leap in passing. He recalls a trip to Lourdes with a former girlfriend, he hoping for a dirty weekend, she intending to take in the holy water and purchase some religious icons, the night ending with him walking alone through the neon-lit streets. Less successfully, the film returns to the motifs of the title images, Bauby imprisoned in a diving suit or breaking free like a butterfly, ideas that could have done without further elocution. In the film, Bauby’s reality is often just as dreamlike and lovely as his inner life, a stay at a hospital by sea where beautiful women float in to care for him. Some fall in love with him, some he’d like to make amends to, but all he can really do is tell his story before his time runs out, which makes it all bittersweet enough to be bearable.

"The Diving Bell and The Butterfly" screens September 29 at 6pm and September 30 at 10am at at Frederick P. Rose Hall. It opens December 19th in limited release from Miramax.

+ "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (FilmLinc)
+ "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (IMDb)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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