Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Words and Pictures


Clive Owen is an alcoholic teacher of honors English at an exclusive prep school. He was a writer, but hasn’t written anything in many years. Juliette Binoche is an abstract expressionist artist with a substantial reputation in her field, but with a terrible case of rheumatoid arthritis, hobbling about on crutches. She is finding it very difficult to paint. She takes a job teaching honors art. From the first day they clash, he needling her about one thing or another, she trying to ignore him and unable. It could not be more obvious that romance is just around the corner after, of course, he fucks everything up with his drunkenness. They get into a competition concerning which is best at conveying feelings: the written word, or the picture that is alleged to be worth a thousand words. There are some interesting arguments, but I knew from the start that it would be essentially a draw. This movie is not a total waste of time, not with these two excellent actors, but I don’t expect to remember it for long.

Once more, looking at abstract expressionism, I am bemused by the old questions. I mean, your kid really could paint that. And I wonder how, looking at a lot of splashes of color on a huge canvas, the artist knows this is good, and that ain’t. When do you know it’s finished? I retain the sneaking suspicion that it’s all a scam, and nobody really knows anything about the actual quality of a work of this sort. That said, I am able to appreciate some of it. It boils down to the old saw of “I know what I like.” Is that all there is to it?

Juliette Binoche actually painted all the artwork here. She likes color, that’s clear. And she knows how to use a mop to spread it around.