The power of art to provoke, transform and redeem is a story that never gets old. Occasionally, however, it can get a little creaky.
“Words and Pictures” is a well-intentioned but clunky film about the eternal conflict between written and visual arts. Directed by Fred Schepisi, it pits the two disciplines–personnified by teachers Jack Marcus (Clive Owen, “words”) and Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche, “pictures”)—against each other and their Beatrice-Benedict-like sparring engages their students and inspires anew each other’s artistic passions. While Marcus spouts John Updike, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King and the etymology of obscure words, Delsanto paints huge canvasses (Binoche’s own real-life work) whose style is reminiscent of the New York School and German Expressionists. Ultimately, secrets are revealed. Vulnerabilities are breached. A job is saved. And, wouldn’t you know it, opposites attract.
In the beginning, there may have been the word. But at the end, it’s not the medium that matters. It’s the message–the big transformative idea that all art brings to messy, creative and enthralling life.