This morning James and I and a couple thousand other press folks took in a screening of the Opening Film at Cannes 2008, Fernando Meirelles's Blindness, starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal. You can check out James' review here, and tomorrow I'll be attending a luncheon/roundtable for the film. And in related Cannes news, Jack Black arrived at the 2008 Festival de Cannes in style. He's here to promote Kung Fu Panda, which premieres later in the week. Check out our gallery of Black and tons of panda bears down below.
Meantime, though, my take on Blindness is that it's ambitious and good, but falls short of being great. In part, I think, this is because the source material was challenging to adapt to a visual experience, but it's also due to some clunky expositional voiceover that detracts from the experience more than it adds. I don't want to be told how this or that person feels or reacts, I want to see it.
Meirelles, a smart and ambitious director, does a good job in conveying both the physical sense of the blindness epidemic that hits his fictional world, and the resulting social chaos and deterioration that ensues. Ruffalo plays an ophthalmologist infected by the first known victim of the blindness, and Moore plays his wife, who pretends to be blind to stay with her husband.
Bernal excels in the bad-guy role of the film; as the self-proclaimed "King of Ward 3" in the quarantine hospital, he embodies all that is reprehensible about humanity without overplaying the role. He's not a larger-than-life villain here, just an ordinary guy, perhaps relatively powerless in the pre-blindness world, who seizes the opportunity to extract whatever personal gain he can from human tragedy with a gleefully manic flair.
As I was watching the everyday world of the film descend into mayhem and all sorts of atrocious human behaviors, I couldn't help but reflect that, yes, sadly, this is probably very much what would happen if such an epidemic were to take place. One person losing his sight, while tragic, doesn't unravel the fabric of society. Plunge most of the world into a milky-white haze, though, and things would probably fall apart rather quickly.
I pondered, as I watched the events unfold, what might happen if everyone here at Cannes was suddenly struck blind. Having experienced already here being nearly run over in the street yesterday by a car whipping around our cab as I was getting out, several people attempting to shove ahead of their places in the press queue to get into the screening this morning, and the frenzied throng of paparazzi James bravely endured to get a few snaps of the cast making their way to the press conference, I'd have to conclude that Cannes would quickly evolve into a hellhole of frenetic pushing, shoving, and blind mayhem. But then, sadly, so too would the rest of the world, n'est-ce pas?
Coming up tonight: the red carpet for Blindness, followed by Waltz With Bashir.