Thursday, October 02, 2008


While it doesn’t approach the transcendent heights of his “The Constant Gardener” or “City of God,” Fernando Meirelles’ “Blindness” is, in many ways, just as challenging as those films and continues to support the idea that he is one of the foremost filmmakers in terms of presenting both thematically and visually powerful material. Based on Jose Saramago’s novel, the film’s an allegory for post-9/11 mania, concerning an epidemic of blindness in the not-too-distant future in an unnamed country. When those infected are quarantined, soon enough, a “Lord of the Flies” type situation erupts. For months, the film’s reputation has been unfairly tarnished by putrid word-of-mouth from the Cannes Film Festival (where a drastically different version was shown). This was likely the first time Miramax realized they didn’t have a crowd-pleaser on their hands, resulting in the film getting the shaft with a moderate-wide dump release tomorrow, despite needing careful nurturing. What I don’t quite get among the criticisms is the dismissal of the film as a “mess;” there’s a cogent – if chaotic – narrative on display by Meirelles here.

What would be more understandable is the undeniable fact that the film is frequently, wildly unpleasant, as we witness the circumstances and environment within the containment center as its inhabitants begin to get raped, murdered, wallowing in their own filth and making horrific, unimaginable choices. I’ll admit the proceedings are difficult to watch at points – I predict scores of walkouts – but it’s all grounded by Julianne Moore, delivering her second great performance this year, as the one woman with sight amidst the madness, and experiences an unasked-for and almost unconscious metamorphosis into an altruistic universal caretaker. Besides staying remarkably faithful to Saramago’s novel, Meirelles collaborates with cinematographer César Charlone to put his oft-complimented visual style is put to effective use. I was transfixed from its opening close-ups of green and red signals on a traffic light, and was fascinated with the whole film’s faded, oversaturated white/light blue tint, and the frequent shots to an all-white screen (the POV of the infected) are increasingly effective. Where one could argue Spike Lee’s “Miracle at St. Anna” is a daring, interesting failure, I think the similarly ambitious “Blindness” succeeds tremendously, but its success is as a movie a whole lot of people will certainly not want to watch. If you can endure it, it’s ultimately a haunting, sophisticated apocalypse movie for those with high minds and strong stomachs.


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