Saturday, October 4, 2008

REVIEW: Blindness...

What would you do if you lost the ability to see?? This is the basis of the new film from City of God/Constant Gardener helmer, Fernando Meirelles, called Blindness. This dark, post apocalyptic film takes a look at what would happen to the planets social, governmental, and economic structure if an epidemic of "the white sickness" were to break out. Now, Mr. Meirelles is no slouchy director, but does this film continue his streak of brilliance?

This film opens up with a shot of a busy city street. It's the basic hustle and bustle of a work day, and seems to go by normally, until a young Asian man, simply known as The First Blind Man, falls victim to what will later be known as "the white sickness". Normally, when a person goes blind, it seems like the lights go out, yet, with his, and the following cases, it seems like "the lights go all the way on", and the victim suffers from white blindness. After this young man is sent to the hospital, each person he meets along the way, including the male lead of the film, Doctor, played by Mark Ruffalo, fall victim to the sickness, and then infect others, who in turn infect more, until everyone is under it's spell. Well, almost everyone. Julianne Moore plays The Doctor's Wife, and is the only person, at least in the film, that has the gift of sight. When the population is quarantined in an abandoned hospital, things go full blown, Lord Of The Flies-esque insane, and she takes care of her ward, Ward 3. Now, there are a few turns, so I will not go into it much more, but there are a few things I would like to discuss.

This is one of the best looking and well conceived, at least visually, films I've seen all year. When the camera introduces the viewer to a new source of light, the whites are washed out until you can barely look at the screen, just as you are adverse to looking when you walk out of a dark room. As the camera adjust, so does the viewer, and then the hues go lighter, but still have a washed out tone that makes the violence that is portrayed all the more brutal. The closest thing I can compare this to is the film Funny Games from earlier this year. It's colors are almost as brutal as the violent happenings that are characters go through. This heavy lifting visually and premise wise only heightens the quality of performances our performers portray. Julianne Moore is brilliant, as usual, and the supporting cast, especially the crew that she leads later in the film, including the great Danny Glover, really add some life to this harsh flick. Also, this film is something that most don't even strive to be, philosophically interesting and compelling. That said, the film has many a flaw.

This great premise is undone by the lack of a true story. The films is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name by Jose Saramago, and it probably should have stayed that way. This premise is so mentally and philosophically compelling, that seeing a film with such a lack luster story based around it, really left a sour taste in my mouth. The script is horribly schlocky, leaving some really horrible performances from some bankable performers, along side knockout performances, giving the film a weird feel. Also, this is one of the most awkwardly paced films I've seen all year. The first act starts off great, and the final act of the film works, but it leaves the 2nd act to just fall apart. Finally, while the visuals of this film really worked for me, there were some almost laughable shots that took me right out of this flick. For example, why, in a film about blind people, do you have two blind men get into a fist fight, AND have another blind guy try to break it up. In this harrowing film, scenes like that just didn't work, it may just be my sense of humor, so shoot me. All of that taken into account, the film can be called pretentious, as I think it is, but it's also insanely scary and visually and philosophically gripping. I honestly think that this, along with films like the Fountain are trying to push film and the medium into more mental realms, this one just falls a little flat.

Pretentious, schlocky, and poorly paced are things that describe this film. But so does scary, stunning, and mentally gripping. If you can stand a film featuring such degradation and sadness, then I say rent this one. Honestly, I'm still putting my thoughts together about this one, and that's something that most films can't say. Most films are disposable right as you walk out of the theatre, just like your pop and popcorn bucket. However, this strives for something more. It may fall short, but at least it tried. Worth a shot, if you can stand it...

Sorry about the short review, but I'm still trying to plot through my thoughts about this film. If any of you have seen it, please, post some of your thoughts, as this is a perfect flick to get a discussion going...

Go see something good!!

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