Remember your favorite teacher in high school who made you feel like you could do or become anything? They were there for you, but did you ever wonder what their life was like? In Fred Schepisi’s WORDS AND PICTURES, the teacher becomes the student.
Prep school English teacher Jack Marcus, deftly portrayed by Clive Owen, laments his students’ obsession with social media and good grades as opposed to rigorous engagement with language. Once a literary star, Jack has not published in years. He’s let the school’s literary magazine fall into ruin. He’s estranged from his son. In short, Jack has much to despair, and when Jack despairs, Jack drinks. A lot. Jack’s drunken behavior has been bad enough to have him banned from a local upscale pub.
Enter, Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), an abstract painter. Like Jack, she was once celebrated for her art, but the recent physical setbacks have made the act of painting too painful to bear. Jack finds Dina attractive but icy; he flirts with and provokes her with equal relish.
With a performance review looming and his job on the line, Jack comes up with an inspired method of galvanizing student interest in their studies: he declares a war between words and pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter. Dina accepts Jack’s challenge and the battles begin. But, before they even know it, their hearts have also entered the fray.
WORDS AND PICTURES celebrates art and education and reminds us that the world is a pretty great place if you really take a chance to appreciate it.
-- James Faust