By William Wolf


Which can be more expressive, words or pictures? Battle lines are drawn with a romantic undercurrent in “Words and Pictures,” directed with bite and charm by Fred Schepisi and shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Its stars, Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, make the film work in the context of the screenplay by Gerald DiPego.

The leading characters are two distinct personalities. Take Owen as Jack Marcus, a prep school English teacher who is fascinated by words and drives colleagues crazy with his rat-a-tat-tat erudition as he constantly resorts to word play and provides background tidbits on words others use in conversation. He is one of those teachers who, on the one hand is impossible, thanks also to his getting drunk and embarrassing himself in public, and on the other, is brilliant and capable of stimulating students. Once with a lively literary reputation, he is now running on empty.

Also at the school is Binoche as Dina Delsanto, an abstract artist suffering from arthritis that makes painting painful. She too has a way with her students, and she believes art can be especially expressive.

She and Marcus have a flirtation, partly hostile, partly intrigued with one another. Marcus is not very capable of a sustained relationship. He is also in a crisis, as he is on the verge of losing his teaching position in the wake of too many drunken episodes. But both he and Delsanto, truly interested in their respective fields, are good sparring partners, and their personal dynamics lead to an argument about the relative communication strengths of words and pictures.

A contest is set up in which the battle lines are drawn for students in each study category, and of course, more is riding on the event than academia when it comes to Marcus and Delsanto. Both Owen and Binoche are in top form, and that keeps “Words and Pictures” spinning effectively. Reviewed October 28, 2013.


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