Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen have been making films for over twenty years, some have been classics others forgettable. Binoche rose to prominence with Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), Owen first emerged as an actor to watch in the minor gem Croupier (1998) directed by Mike Hodges. In a short scene towards the end of their latest film Words and Pictures, they each get to share a hearty laugh. It is a moment of simplicity and subtle acting brilliance. Chemistry like this does not come often.
The film is directed by Fred Schepisi who like his stars has had his fair share of hits and misses. For every The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith their has been Mr Baseball, his latest film aligns to the romantic sensibilities of Roxanne (1987). Written by Gerald DiPego (Sharky’s Machine), the film, lensed by longtime collaborator Ian Baker and scored by the great Jazz man Paul Grabowsky.
Jack Marcus is an honors English Literature teacher in a private school, he is a borderline alcoholic and one-time acclaimed poet who is a self-confessed great teacher. Jack describes his class as “computer deadened shopping mall minds.” He is attempting to teach John Updike, and Ian McEwan to a generation absorbed in the digital world.
Dina Delsanto is the newly arrived Arts honors teacher who introduces herself to the class. “I don’t want to get to know you. I’m not the kind of teacher you are going to comeback to visit.” After some fierce word play Jack and Dina decide to hold a debate over what is more important the written word or the visual art. The attraction increases amidst the very human adult struggles with both characters. Dina’s struggles with rheumatoid arthritis whilst Jack prefers the bottle over almost everything else in his life including his long suffering son.
Fred Schepisi is a remarkably accomplished director and his artistry is on display in the excellent Words and Pictures.