Last Updated: May 27, 2007By

By ALI NADERZAD – May 28, 2007It’s not a mystery: the stories that captivate us the most are often biographical. If the pain inflicted on celluloid is real and was felt by someone, then the story should touch us more. And the two movies that are the top contenders for a Palme D’Or share similarities in this regard. This is a look at the stories-behind-the-movies contending for the Palme D’or. The story of Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud) it was about overcoming yourself, your insecurities and your perceptions of the world; Satrapi accomplished a lot with partner, painstakingly creating 80,000 drawings for around 130,000 images without resorting to CGI. The Croisette was buzzing before and after the premiere and Persepolis is considered a serious contender for the Palme D’Or. Why? Because everyone loves an underdog, to use a big cliche. The other element of Persepolis is that it is not a fictitious character–this is for real. Here I am sitting at lunch with Marjane Satrapi, here I am sitting inside the Salle Bunuel watching her personal story unspooling on the big screen. Same people, same take on life. Anyone who believes in their own story so much and train the spotlight on their ups and downs for all to see deserves accolades and recognition.
The other contender for the Palme D’or this year in Cannes is Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, starring Matthiew Amalric, also a poignantly intimate story of survival and success. Amalric plays Jean-Dominique Bauby, Elle Magazine’s editor-in-chief who suffers a devastating stroke while driving with his son. Aside more details about the story itself, the film shared the previous one’s sensibility in that the technical, the visual, what gets imprinted on our retinae, is brought to life organically. Baudy suffers from locked-in syndrome, a condition in which the patient is aware and awake but is unable to move or communicate due to complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body. His entire physical state is reduced to one eye. The story is told from Baudy’s perspective and for a director to bring out the humanity, the physicality out of an otherwise dead body is rife with complications–but Schnabel triumphs. Not only is the The Diving Bell and The Butterfly impressive visually and esthetically but the story is a true, personal essay on being suddenly confronted with the complete abnegation of the ability to express oneself. Diving Bell is like falling off a very high cliff and realizing, upon landing, that you are still, somehow, alive. Where do you go from there? The thing that has always amazed me about Schnabel, known first as a painter, is his detachment. Not a detachment when it comes to filmmaking but a detachment from being a filmmaker. And why should he consider himself a filmmaker? Good point, though with a repertoire like Basquiat, Before Night Falls (with Javier Bardem) and now The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Schnabel has more than earned his title.
Ach, I didn’t think I was going to do this but here it is anyway. Persepolis will win, I know it! As the French would say when wishing someone good luck: merde!