Blindness (Miramax, widescreen, $29.99)
feature, 120 mins; rated R
End-of-the-world sagas, from 28 Days Later (and its sequel) and I Am Legend to the forthcoming screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s stark, exceedingly dark (but beautifully crafted) The Road, by nature are bleak.
Blindness (Miramax, $29.99), likewise, is darn bleak: The film, helmed by Mexican director Fernando Meirelles (Children of God) posits that humans, in times of extreme crisis and fear, are liable to turn savage.
Who needs real-life zombies when regular folks descend into brutality and other types of ugly behavior, like the suddenly de-civilized young Brit lads in William Golding’s groundbreaking 1954 novel Lord of the Flies?
Blindness, based on the Jose Saramago novel, follows a group of characters, brought together in a rather contrived fashion, who have suddenly and inexplicably gone blind. They live in whiteness, not darkness, their normal seeing replaced with a constant shield of bright light.
Julianne Moore, a regular in films regarding contemporary alienation and ennui, is the only sighted person of the bunch, the wife of an eye doctor — oh, the irony! — played by Mark Ruffalo, all good intentions, hangdog attitude and fingers that roam in the direction of a good-hearted prostitute (Alice Braga).
The cast also includes Danny Glover as a wise man with an eye patch, suggesting that Morgan Freeman wasn’t available; Gael Garcia Bernal as a bartender-turned-dictator, a young guy who seizes control of the abandoned ward where the blindness victims are quarantined, and then proceeds to abuse his power in exceedingly ugly fashion; and screen vet Maury Chaykin as an accountant who uses his talents to support Bernal’s regime (characters go unnamed).
Meirelles’ vision is relentlessly grim, until … it’s not, when the band of disease victims escapes from the ward, dances a joyful dance in the rain that heals all wounds, celebrates a warm, convivial homecoming dinner and becomes an accidental family.
The tonal shift is strikingly sudden and unconvincing , just one element of a film that is less than satisfying.
- “A Vision of Blindness,” hourlong documentary following the production from actors’ workshops to a screening featuring a meeting between Meirelles and novelist Saramago
- Audio commentary by Meirelles
- Deleted scenes
Also released this week:
Frozen River (Sony, widescreen DVD, $28.96), a surprisingly moving “small” drama featuring an affecting, Oscar-nominated performance by Melissa Leo. She’s a single mom who teams with a widowed Mohawk woman (Misty Upham) in a dangerous operation transporting illegal aliens across icy upstate New York terrain bordering Canada. Extras: Commentary by writer/director Courtney Hunt and producer Heather Rae. DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
W. (Lions Gate, widescreen DVD, $29.95), with Josh Brolin as the title character in Oliver Stone’s predictably loopy vision of Bush. Cast also includes Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth Banks, Toby Jones, and James Cromwell. Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurette; skewed short on Bush presidency; DVD-ROM features.
Miracle at St. Anna (widescreen DVD, $29.99), Spike Lee’s WWII drama, with Derek Luke, John Turturro, John Leguizamo, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
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