Words and Pictures (2013)
An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important.
111 min
Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche
Fred Schepisi
Joseph Cohen
Australia, Canada, United States
A decade ago, Jack Marcus was a critically respected, up-and-coming writer, but now he teaches at a New England prep school, has a drinking problem, and hasn’t published a poem in years. None of this seems to keep his spirits down: Jack is popular amongst most of his students for his off the cuff attitude. He can converse brilliantly and wittily about anything, anytime, anywhere, much to the chagrin of his less dazzling colleagues. Celebrated painter Dina Delsanto has also hit a tough patch in life. She’s suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and can no longer wield a brush properly. To keep herself occupied, Dina takes a job as art instructor at the same prep school where Jack works. Dina arrives for her first day just as Jack learns that the school’s board is considering firing him. Headmaster Rashid knows that Jack can be a valuable teacher when he tries, but he cannot defend him to the board, who have threatened to cancel the school’s literary magazine “The Lion,” which Jack edits. The magazine was once excellent, but Jack knows that he has let it slide. Even a single poem from him could have kept the magazine’s reputation intact. Jack has until the impending board review to show that he can deliver good work, whether on his own (poems) or from his students (magazine material). Jack seems to repel the intensely private Dina, but his intellectual antics earn him enough respect whereby she tolerates his frequent conversational intrusions. Meanwhile, her best student Emily Tanaka seems uncertain of her gift for painting, as well as troubled by the sarcastic flirtations from Swint, Jack’s favored student. When Dina tells her class that words can lie and that great images produce purer emotional responses, Jack sees the lightning rod that will galvanize his students. He posits the question “Is a picture really worth a thousand words?” “We the People” are words that formed an entire country: how powerful is that? The words versus pictures challenge is posted in the school’s common room, and soon the campus begins buzzing with discussion. Jack produces a poem that shows he is back on track, and Dina experiments with binding her hand to her forearm as a means of steadying her brush strokes. Both of them get caught up in the debate raging at school, and Dina begins to warm to Jack’s charm. He tries to rekindle his relationship with his college-aged son Tony, also a writer, but Tony knows his father too well. His alcoholism, always well hidden, is an ever-present invisible gorilla in the room that will destroy everything unless it is vanquished. Dina allows Jack into her life and into her bed, but he promptly messes a good thing up by drinking too much and ruining the first painting she has completed in years. Filled with shame, Jack then reveals that he stole his son Tony’s poem, and that his creative fire may have gone out for good. He resigns one day after the board, impressed by the students’ activity, decided to keep him on as a teacher. Jack asks that he be able to participate in the final school presentation of the words versus pictures debate. Rashid allows him to do so. As her side of the argument, Dina presents the ruined painting that has been refinished by her student Emily. The beautiful, soulful image speaks for itself. Jack then celebrates fine art’s ability to take us to a place we did not know existed whether in words OR pictures - a poetic phrase or Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” He salutes Dina’s art and the power of words AND images, and of words evoking images. Later, as they both depart the school, they trade insults and then fall into each other’s arms, two artists trying to survive, create and love in the trenches of life....more
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