Last night, James and I had tickets to the TIFF premiere of Blindness, adapted from the Nobel Prize-winning book by José Saramago. James reviewed Blindness when we saw the film at Cannes, but I'd heard through the Telluride grapevine that the film had undergone a substantial edit since then. The cut we saw back in May was overlayed with a heavy, expositional voiceover throughout that completely killed the film, which I otherwise had liked quite a bit. So when I heard there was a re-edit playing here at TIFF, I knew we had to see it.

I'm happy to report that the newly edited version of Blindness is a vast improvement over what we saw at Cannes. Not only did director Fernando Meirelles (who also made one of the best films ever, City of God) remove the irritating and distracting voiceover, but as a result of doing so had to significantly re-cut, and in the process ended up with a much, much better film. He's tightened it up a lot, particularly a very troublesome bit concerning a major character arc shift for Julianne Moore's character, The Doctor's Wife, which was one of the parts I most had trouble with at Cannes. And while the film's running time is about the same, it now paces much quicker and thus feels like a tauter, shorter film that's much more engaging.

In the recut, this arc for Moore's character (which I can't give away because it would spoil a major moment in the story) felt far more believable to me. So, overall Blindness is now a much better film, and one that will play better to mainstream audiences, in spite of the apocalyptic vibe. It's such a substantial change that it felt like watching a completely different film; I was able to focus more on how beautifully the film is shot, and how much better the character arcs worked with the tightened editing. I have a pretty solid memory for what I saw in Cannes, and it seemed that Meirelles also cut down some of the heavier post-apocalyptic stuff to focus more on the characters as well.

Thanks to James's superb seat-locating skills, we ended up on the aisle, right in front of the reserved section for the cast, and so had Sandra Oh and Gael Garcia Bernal sitting almost directly behind us; also on hand for the premiere were Julianne Moore (looking resplendent in a gorgeous purple gown, but when does she not look fabulous?), Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, smiling and looking very dapper, McKellar, Meirelles, and many of the Canadian cast members. We also spotted Adoration director Atom Egoyan and his wife, Arsinée Khanjian, and actor Geoffrey Rush in the audience.

The film received a fairly prolonged standing ovation at last night's screening, and I strongly suspect that even the politely Canadian Toronto crowd would not have been so enthused about the cut that played Cannes. James will be talking to Blindness screenwriter Don McKellar later in the fest about the recut, so stay tuned for more on that.

Following the screening we attended the party for the film, which had a "blindness" theme -- the hallway leading to the main party space was filled with heavy white fog to mirror the film's take on blindness, in which everyone sees as though "swimming in milk." (I tried to take a few pics with my little camera, but the fog was so heavy you would have been looking at nothing but white) The party was loud and packed, but the drinks were good, and they gave out lovely goody bags which included a copy of the book on which the film is based, a white shirt, and a gorgeous Swarovski necklace.

Upcoming from TIFF: Review of Religulous (plus and interview with Bill Maher and Larry Charles), and reviews of The Burning Plain starring Charlize Theron, and The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. We'll also have some dispatches rounding up some of the smaller films playing the fest as well, closer to the end of the fest when we've had a chance to catch some of them.