Marie-Josée Croze

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Julian Schnabel’s film version of Jean-Dominque Bauby’s memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (see annotation), is a re-imagining of the book that offers new approaches to teaching, even while it misses some of the aspects of the book that are so critical to educating medical and nursing students about the experiences of patients. Like Bauby’s book, Schnabel’s movie tells the story of a high-level editor at French Elle who has a stroke and is paralyzed except for the ability to blink one eye and to move his head slightly. Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) awakens from a coma to find himself in a hospital and unable to move or, at least at first, to communicate.

A speech therapist (Marie- Josée Croze) teaches him how to blink in response to letters as she reads through the alphabet, so that letter by letter Bauby can communicate. Friends and family learn this method, and eventually Bauby decides to write a memoir of his experiences using this technique. His publisher finds an amanuensis to transcribe the portions of the book that he first memorizes and then communicates to her painstakingly. The film portrays the process of writing the book, Bauby’s experiences in the hospital with health care professionals, family, and friends, and also some past experiences, such as caring for his aging father and taking a trip with a girlfriend to Lourdes.

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Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film


Fifty-something Canadian professor of history and lifelong womanizer Rémy (Rémy Girard) lies in an overcrowded hospital with a fatal illness. Family and friends gather, including Rémy’s estranged son Sébastian (a wealthy financier played by Stéphane Rousseau) from overseas, and Rémy’s ex-wife (Dorothée Berryman) and several previous romantic partners. Rémy and Sébastian fight painfully about Rémy’s philandering, but after a plea from his mother Sébastian decides to make things better for his father, even if they have not been reconciled.

This he does in many ways, most of which involve spending lots of money and many of which are highly irregular or illegal. For example, he arranges to have his father taken into the U.S. for an expensive PET scan that would have required six months’ wait to have free in Canada. And he arranges through Nathalie (Marie-Josée Croze), a childhood friend who is now a heroin addict, to provide a regular supply of heroin to control his father’s pain, which the hospital apparently is not able to do with morphine.

These and other extraordinary measures work for Rémy, and the process of caregiving brings Sébastian and his father closer. (Rémy’s only problem seems to be the feeling that his life has been wasted because he has not left his mark--and he gets help with that, paradoxically, through several conversations with Nathalie.) For his last few days, Rémy and ensemble move to a friend’s lakeside cabin, where the conversation is witty, intellectual, and sexually frank, and the mood upbeat and conciliatory.

In the face of Rémy’s imminent demise, all is forgiven, and others seem to gain insight about their lives. Rémy’s last act is peacefully nodding to a sorrowful Nathalie to begin the series of heroin injections that will end his life. In a final dig at the establishment, the heroin is administered through an IV provided on the sly by a hospital nurse.

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