Today’s Cinema Society screening was a grownup movie. It’s about art – what a concept – and stars two of my favorite actors, Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen, neither of whom are capable of giving a bad performance.
A witty, wordy drama/comedy, “Words and Pictures” is set at a New England prep school where Clive Owen’s Jack Marcus is the honors English teacher and Juliette Binoche’s Dina Delsanto is the new art teacher. He used to be somebody – a published author/poet who once taught on the college level. But a bad “hobby” (his word) of guzzling too much vodka has derailed his career and his relationship with his son, not to mention alienated most of the other teachers and the school’s dean. Binoche’s Dina was a celebrated abstract painter who was brought low by rheumatoid arthritis, which has crippled her ability to move freely and have a normal life. The two characters clash, initially over his insistence that words are more meaningful than images and her assertion that a picture is worth a thousand words. Little by little, their sexual chemistry takes over and life becomes even more complicated for them.
It was a pleasure to see a film that celebrated language, and Owen’s character, a garrulous fellow, quotes some truly beautiful literature. And Binoche, it turns out, painted all the art we see in the movie; she’s been an artist since she was young and has had gallery showings in France.
The film’s writer, Gerald DiPego, does a nice job of bringing his lovers together, although the plot and its conclusion are as predictable as it gets. He came for the Q&A after the screening and I introduced myself because I worked at Dell when we published his first novel back in the ’70s. Having written screenplays for big studio movies over the years, he said he was thrilled to have gone the indie route with this new one. Nobody made me him rewrite – a rarity in Hollywood.
Overall, I recommend “Words and Pictures.” It’s charming, if predictable, as I said, and well worth a couple of hours.