On December 8, 1995, 43-year-old French author and fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominque Bauby suffered a massive stroke. He was rendered completely paralyzed except for his left eyelid. Despite the debilitating injury, Bauby subsequently dictated a memoir, letter by letter, by blinking when the correct letter of the alphabet was read allowed to him. Bauby died on March 9, 1997, ten days after the memoir was published in France and five days before Jean-Jacques Beinneix's documentary Locked in Syndrome was televised.
There's little doubt that this documentary made with the cooperation of Bauby, his secretary, and his caregivers was an invaluable visual record for the theatrical adaptation of Bauby's memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Fans of the book or film will no doubt want to see this fine short doc.
The lengthiest feature on this disc is Otaku (1994), a 77-minute documentary about Japanese people with supposedly obsessive interests in idols (young female singer/starlets), manga, cosplay, bondage, live war-gaming, model building, monsters, antique American motorcycles, guerrilla street theater, and half a dozen other pursuits. Beineix and co-director Jackie Bastide include a pair of stuffy Japanese social scientists to talk about the loss of social cohesion and purpose in the consumer-driven youth of the day, but they generally fail to look at the economic causes for the arrested development of the post-bubble youth, and they're too quick to pathologize interests which only infrequently appear obsessional. Though a few of the self-stylized Otaku appear, at least in the context of the brief and biased interviews, to allow their interests to overwhelm their lives, many others do not. Unfortunately, Otaku rarely rises above freak-show frog-march.
Rounding out this disc is Beineix's first short made in 1977, Mr. Michel's Dog (Le chien de Monsieur Michel), a black comedy about an indigent man whose white lie about a hungry pet snowballs into an elaborate charade. The scenario is rather thin and wouldn't have supported a longer runtime, but at less than sixteen minutes works well enough.
Non-removable English subtitles are provided for Locked in Syndrome and Mr. Michel's Dog. While the subtitles for Locked in Syndrome look fine, those for Mr. Michel's Dog are burnt-in, small, and typographically odd. Burnt-in French subtitles appear occasionally in Otaku. No subtitles options are provided on this release.
None of the audio sounds particularly good but it's all passable, though ideally the original French audio would have also been provided as an option on Locked in Syndrome and Mr. Michel's Dog.