The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When a stroke left Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby paralyzed but for his memory, imagination and a single blinkable eye, he used the last to dictate an entire memoir. Ronald Harwood adapts the book for visual artist and occasional moviemaker Julian Schnabel (BasquiatBefore Night Falls), who gets much mileage — a dance of dreams and fantasies, some truly intimate blink-coded conversations — from Bauby’s tortured point of view. Apparently he did at least have the good fortune of being attended by several gorgeous women, including his estranged wife (Emmanuelle Seigner), who made that one working eye very much worth looking out of. Bauby is portrayed by the always expressive and charismatic French actor Mathieu Amalric, who should be a household name in America several years from now if there’s any justice. Meanwhile, this film serves him plenty well. Like Schnabel’s paintings (and his other movies), Diving Bell is modishly slick, visually inventive, and vaguely immaterial — but ultimately moving because, well, how could it not be?