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Cannes Day One: Santa Claus and cannibal dogs

Posted by Ty Burr  May 14, 2008 12:23 PM

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It's hot. It's crowded. My taxi driver clipped a moped and I had to get out and throw money at him while the two went at each other in the street. Ahhh, welcome to Cannes, the only place you'll see a gang of men dressed like Santa Clauses on the beach:

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What were they promoting? Who knows? Why is Robert Downey Jr. in blackface ten feet tall on the front of this hotel (with Harrison Ford and Shia LeBoeuf looming above him)?

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I had barely touched down this afternoon (that's about 8 a.m.for you) when I saw my first movie, and in time-honored film festival tradition, it was much less than the sum of its hype. It's "Blindness," from "City of God" director Fernando Meirelles, and it's one of those allegorical apocalypse movies that people like Michael Haneke ("The Time of the Wolf") have done much better. Heck, Frank Darabont ("The Mist") has done better, and so has Rod Serling. The conceit is that the inhabitants of an unnamed major urban center -- and by extension the world -- have suddenly been stricken blind and that the government has rounded up the afflicted, quarantined, and ignored them. So we get a Lord of the Flies thing going with actors like Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga, and Julianne Moore -- as the one character who can still see -- coping with societal breakdown writ small.

There's group rape, there's murder, there are dogs eating the flesh of the dead, and there's one big honking metaphor -- we're all blind to each other, man -- that Meirelles gets between his teeth and shakes until it falls to pieces. It's a pretty impressive work of production design, though, especially after the survivors move out into the urban wasteland. I probably would have minded "Blindness" a lot less if it weren't so high-minded about itself (and if it weren't so blessed long; at just under two hours it feels like five).

This could be jet lag. But I don't think so. The critic from a major American newspaper sitting next to me was getting the guilty giggles too.

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1 comments so far...
  1. Dang, I was hoping Blindness was to Day of the Triffids, what Invasion was to Invasion of the Body Snatchers ... but good. No carnivorous, crawling plants though, eh. Where's the imagination these days!

    Posted by cheesesteak the impaler May 16, 08 10:30 PM
 

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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