The opening film of this year’s festival was Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.
Based on José Saramago’s 1995 novel it is about an epidemic of blindness in a modern city.
Here is a summary of some of the critical reaction:
Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is underwhelmed:
I respected Blindness — I certainly agree with what it’s saying — but it didn’t arouse me at all. Opening-night films at big festivals are often underwhelming on this or that level — bland, suckish, so-so.
I’m sorry to be saying what I’m saying as I worshipped Meirelles’ City of God and very much admired The Constant Gardener. But the truth is that Blindness is more than a bit of a flub.
For what it’s worth, the pacing, performances and tech credits are first-rate.
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels lacks an element of surprise:
Blindness is provocative cinema. But it also is predictable cinema: It startles but does not surprise.
An appreciative critical response will be needed stateside for Miramax to market this Brazilian-Canadian-Uruguayan co-production.
Other territories may benefit from the casting of an array of international actors with some boxoffice draw.
Justin Chang of Variety has similarly mixed feelings:
Despite a characteristically strong performance by Julianne Moore as a lone figure who retains her eyesight, bearing sad but heroic witness to the horrors around her, Fernando Meirelles’ slickly crafted drama rarely achieves the visceral force, tragic scope and human resonance of Saramago’s prose.
Despite marquee names, mixed reviews might yield fewer eyes than desired for this international co-production.
Joe Utichi of IGN is also somewhat disappointed:
Ultimately, Blindness is a brave attempt from this ever-versatile director at creating an intelligent, original sci-fi thriller that, sadly, never quite comes together.
James Rocchi of Cinematical is more admiring:
But while Blindness can be faulted for many things, it also has to be respected for its ambition, craft, and effort;
Blindness shows us a world of wide-eyed sightlessness, and it does so through a fierce vision that only occasionally loses focus.
Xan Brooks of The Guardian is also more positive:
Blindness may well be the bleakest curtain raiser in the history of the festival, a nightmarish parable of the apocalypse, directed by the Brazilian film-maker Fernando Meirelles and just as impressive in its way as his career-making City of God.
It’s a devastating bit of work – a cold-eyed portrait of social meltdown that nonetheless shows how catastrophe can bring out the best in people as well as the worst.
I could have done without Danny Glover’s sage, hushed narration over every stray moment of quiet, but otherwise this was pretty much spot-on.
Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph feels the acting is strong, but not enough to redeem the overall film:
As always, it’s impossible to take one’s eyes off Moore who is so adept at playing roles in which her strength seems brittle, almost masochistic.
Alice Braga, a prostitute who is one of the inmates that Moore and Ruffalo befriend, is also a stand-out performer.
They do well to save a film that, in trying so hard to be faithful to the novel, falls prey to tone-deafness.
Did you see Blindness at Cannes? If so, then leave your thoughts below.
> Blindness at the IMDb
> Find out more about the novel at Wikipedia
> Anne Thomspon speaks to director Fernando Meirelles at Variety
> Will Lawrence also has a piece on Mereilles at the Telegraph