Friday, October 31, 2008

What Happened? Barry Levinson made a great film, that's what happened

There's nothing like a Hollywood Funeral for an agent who makes 10%
Robert De Niro and John Turturro star in Barry Levinson's What Just Happened, an Alliance Films' release.

If you think you’ve had a bad two weeks, ask Ben (Robert De Niro), an executive producer for a number of major Hollywood pictures. He’s got two issues in particular. First, his latest project, Firefly, starring Sean Penn, has received horrible reviews with the test audience. The money people want the film edited. The director wants his vision respected. The film is set for Cannes at the end of the week… Second, Bruce Willis has shown up on the set with a Grizzly Adams beard and about 20-30 extra pounds. The money people are going to pull out if the beard isn’t gone by Friday. Mr. Willis thinks his artistic integrity is being compromised.

Minor problems, perhaps, but with $25 million dollars on the line for each film, along with the livelihood of directors, gaffers, agents, and a whole host of supporting staff… Ben has a heavy load on his shoulders.
As he drives from place to place in his SUV Porche, Ben attempts, at least on occasion, to find a moment or two for intimacy with his ex-wife, his teenage daughter, and a woman who straddles the border between elite call girl and… um… actress. However, the cell phone takes precedence, and any attempt to have a meaningful connection with others, outside of work concerns, is back burnered.

De Niro delivers an amazing performance as Ben, the man who will lie if he needs to, bullshit when necessary, and hustle to please those who must be pleased. Without explicitly stating it, he wrestles with his conscience. Should he allow addicted director Jeremy to keep Firefly as is? Should he strike a film deal with someone who has been sleeping with his ex wife? Does the situation change if Brad Pitt has agreed to be in the film? With the same contained violence about to explode that he brought to Raging Bull and the Godfather, De Niro’s character conveys a man barely graceful under intense pressure. His brooding silence is sometimes all he has left in most circumstances, as his brain calculates what must be done to make the show go on.

Hollywood usually does a wonderful job parodying itself. The film is sharp and witty from start to finish and manages to show the drama inherent in everyday situations. Gripping drama is created over such topics as an argyle sock, and, of course, the multi-million dollar question: Will Bruce Willis shave his beard? The film also manages to raise questions about sincerity, or rather, it points out that truth is relative to one’s immediate needs and one’s situation. Ethics are something one must balance against the attention of the reigning hierarchy. Discomfort is a constant theme, especially how much a man will endure in his quest for money and power. The cast does an incredible job fleshing out the supporting roles by Bruce Willis (as himself), Sean Penn (as himself), directors (Michael Wincott), agents (John Turturro), script writers (Stanley Tucci), money people (Catherine Keener), associates, and, of course, family members.

Zach and Miri Make a Porno And Damn, I'd Like to See It

I think I have a massive crush on Seth Rogen.
Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks star in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, an Alliance Films' release. Darren Michaels/The Weinstein Co. 2008

Many years ago, back when people had big hair and wore shoulder pads, a movie was made in which a man and a woman who were friends finally confessed their love for one another and had sex, though not necessarily in that order. The climax of said movie, no pun intended, was when the female character faked an orgasm in a deli in order to demonstrate the ease with which a woman makes a man feel… beastly.

I hated that movie.

Fortunately, the theme of how friends can become lovers is visited in a much zanier comedy, Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Apparently, the audience with which I sat barely twittered, while I had two hands over my mouth at the seedy suburban humor of director/writer Kevin Smith.

Although Seth Rogen is better known from his role in the Judd Aptow films, he proves to be every inch his manly, likable self in Smith’s film. Smith has moved away, fortunately, from the divine and the improbable, sticking to things that are merely… well... possible ... assuming that all planets were aligned and Mercury had gone into retrograde. The point is that this film is more grounded in a conceivable reality and as a result is better than some of Smith's last few ventures. With the fantastic repartee one comes to expect from a Smith film and a very sweet set of characters, the home grown porn industry looks almost like family fun.

The story, quite simply, is that roommates and best friends Zach (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks), are broke and have lost both power and water in their run down apartment. An accidental You Tube moment, in which Miri’s grandmother sized flowery underwear become the hit of the web, leads to a scramble to produce their own porno -- Star Whores. Sadly, the soundstage, costumes, camera, and props meet an unfortunate accident with a wrecking ball, and the entire motley crew turns to Zach’s place of employment, a coffee shop, instead.

Situation aside, the movie is truly about the unrealized love that binds Miri and Zach. Their jealousy, their pride, and their desire for each other is the point of the film. No matter how awesome Tracy Lords is as Bubbles, the film would not work unless Rogen and Banks brought the right chemistry and energy to the film. Fortunately, they do. They are fantastic and their situation, although sometimes a little on the saccharine side, is very real. Their genuine feelings override the zaniness of the situation.

I am happy to think Smith has resurrected his career and has returned the spotlight to barristas and people from the Class of 199X who didn’t just lose their retirement funds on wall street last month. This film is an enjoyable romp that will delight most audiences who appreciate anal sex-vibrator-saggy balls humor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Napoleon Exhibit at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal

Napoleon, painted by Francois Gerard

He's short and stout, like a little tea pot. He wrote dirty letters to his wife that she shouldn't bathe until he got home. He hung out in Egypt for awhile, and controlled a major Empire in the wake of the French Revolution. Yes, the man of the moment is Napoleon. He, like many of the world's greatest leaders in history, attracts a following even now.

Right under our noses, Ben Weider amassed a collection of memorbillia and art related to Napoleon and the First Empire. Weider made a gift of his collection to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Starting October 23, 2008, the museum opened its new galleries to display this collection along with loaned and donated objects from other generous patrons. Furniture, clocks, clothing, enamels, bronzes, sculptures, painting, and works in other media make up the collection.

The exhibit is a delightful assemblage, well worth a visit. Personal effects bring Napoleon into close proximity to the visitor. I was especially struck by the cocked hat. This hat is one of the few authenticated hats worldwide, and was worn during Napoleon's failed Russian campaign. The hat is lined with silk, in order to protect Napoleon from the harsh winter weather, and adorned with a small tricolor cockade stitched on near the point. Its worn appearance coupled with its iconic familiarity is intimate and poignant.

No Napoleonic exhibit would be complete without some of the carefully tailored portraiture, the bread and butter of propaganda. Napoleon cuts a striking pose as First Consul in a painting by Andrea Appiani from Milan. Heroic, stately, attractive... Napoleon was something of a looker in the early days. However, the more familiar, more regal portraits are included as well, such as a bust length portrait of Napoleon in his coronation robes from the workshop of Baron Francois-Pascal-Simon Gerard in Rome. Napoleon liked the painting so much that he had multiple copies produced of this image and distributed them to foreign dignitaries and diplomats, as well as redone in prints, porcelains, and medallions. Complementing this official image is a neo-classical marble sculpture of the late Napoleon done by the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Overall, this exhibit does a fine job of bringing together grand pieces with more humble objects. Nothing is lost or overshadowed in the display. Montreal is lucky to have such a generous donor in Weider and he deserves a hearty Merci for offering his collection to the public. Perhaps others will follow his example in years to come.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
1380 Sherbrooke West
Guy-Concordia Metro, or buses along Sherbrooke
Permanent Collection is Free, Tuesday-Friday 11-17h; Sat/Sun 10-17 h

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Montreal's Museums: the CCA (Centre for Canadian Architecture)

In terms of your straight up art museum with works by the Old Masters, Impressionists, and ancient cultures, Canada clocks in pretty weak for the Western world. Canada’s history museums that focus on Canada, as well as Canada-focused art, are more the local specialization. As a former New Yorker and Bostonian, a short time resident of London(England) and Athens (Greece), having just one or two major exhibits pass by the Musee des Beaux Arts is kind of a cultural disappointment.

However, one museum in particular in Montreal deserves far more credit than it usually gets. The Centre for Canadian Architecture, otherwise known as the CCA. This cute little museum made out of a former mansion tucked away on a quiet street of downtown (unless one approaches from the Rene Levesque side) is a worthy visit for the serious architecture connoisseur and those who are interested in cutting edge art. There are no Picassos or famous art pieces to be found here that would appeal to the mass. Instead, the museum tends to demand a more thoughtful visit.

The museum usually features two major exhibits that stick around for around 6 months at a time. The exhibits are always thought provoking and interesting. However, they are only of moderate interest to someone who is looking for the typical museum browse. Instead, take the time to read the walls, which feature detailed explanations of most of the things on display. Leaf through the beautiful books and watch the videos. This is a museum where one must stop and spend time with the displays. Even better, take a tour led by one of the informative guides. With their guidance, the text heavy exhibits are suddenly a mind expanding experience.

Ultimately, the CCA is more academic than user friendly. The museum experience here is that the visitor feels educated by the visit, rather than simply “in the presence” of a masterpiece. The exhibits manage to present history, theory, and practice all at the same time, and this does require some effort of involvement. Of course, any expenditure of time or energy is worth it here. These are very intelligent exhibits. Every time I visit this museum, I come away with new eyes and feeling as though my worldview has expanded.

The CCA also features an archive and a library, as well as a collection of prints, drawings, and photographs. Items from the collection are usually integrated into the exhibits when appropriate. Frequent lectures, mainly on the free Thursday night, are a bonus. The bookstore is a delight for those who love art books.

Current Exhibitions: Toplight Room Transparencies from 1760-1960 until Feb 15, 2009 and Actions: What You Can Do With the City opening November 26th.

Address: 1920 Rue Baile (south of st. Catherine, north of Rene Levesque, off Rue Du Fort); Montreal, QC

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 – 17; Thursday 10 – 21

Admission: Adults $10; Seniors $7; Children 6-12 $3; Children under 5 free

Free admission Thursday nights after 17:30h

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Punkz not dead! It just dilutes: Vancougar, Chocolat, Jay Reatard at the Cabaret

I'll start with Vancougar, since these ladies played first to those who dared come early enough to see the opening act. These four talented ladies put the Ps in Pop and Punk, which is the best way. I don't mean Dead Kennedys punk. Think 80's punk-pop sort of new wave and that's exactly their sound. They were a solid four-piece, standard bass-guitar-keys-drums, with some sweet harmonies, and catchy tunes. A group of women musicians always risk being a little on the saccharine side with too much technique and not enough bone chewin'. Their cute name (I rather like it, but these are not cougars by any stretch of the imagination) and matching "rocker" suits didn't do much to give them depth. I was worried that these girls had no chops, but about halfway through their set, they seemed to grind and rock out a little more. Montreal can be a tough town, though, and Vancouver is a long way away. Every song was well done, and the dynamic between them is enjoyable to watch. I liken them to the GoGos, back when the GoGos were cool.

Next up was Montreal's much beloved Jimmy Hunt in one of his newer incarnations: Chocolat. Jimi Hunt has been around the scene for a long time, a champion of that mod-electro 60's style that gets the kids dancing here. This band brings together members of Hunt's band the Demon's Claws with some members of the CPC Gangbangs. WIth fuzz, reverb, and a certain amount of psychedellia (I don't think they pull it off quite as well as the artists of the 60s, but drugs these days aren't what the drugs of yesterday were), they put on a ballsy show. And the audience? The audience practically threw themselves on the stage in adoration. Hunt crooned, wailed, caterwalled, and folked while the rest of the piece band provided effective backup as well as outstanding solos by second guitarist Dale MacDonald who even flung himself at the feet of Hunt in a rock spin of solo madness. Make no mistake, if Vancougar worked the black denim Canadian leisure suit, Chocolat worked the bargain bin at the Salvation Army. Obviously, the Montreal one, since tight pants ruled the day. Hunt is iconic, emblematic: a scarecrow come to life, with his checkered plaid shirt, fedora, and harmonica strap. The Dylan comparisons are more than appropriate.

Finally, hair rockers Jay Reatard. Reatard harkens back to the 80s and 90s, when men wore tiger print spandex and eyeliner and played guitars that were shaped like lightning bolts (in this case, a flying V). Reatard, fortunately, forewent the spandex, but the sound was unmistakable. If only he'd brought the fog machine and a better light show. This is hair metal. That glam rock meets hard rock sort of thing. It isn't hard to imagine these three dudes sitting in their basement, taking bong hits, and head banging along with Motley Crue, ACDC, and um... Meatloaf? Loud, crunchy, riffy, power-chordy. Which is not to say un-talented -- this is real music, but it isn't serious. Songs clock in under 2 minutes apiece and the entire set might have been a half hour long. Who cares? It's awesome! Reatard is fun. Big fun. Indie rock kind of fun. Indie rock? You read that right. Seems that as the music of my youth becomes retro to today's 20-somethings, the genre switches. What once would have been metal has become the mainstay of today's fans of the alt independent scene. Not that I'm complaining. I liked some of those MTV bands and know all the words to the Final Countdown.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Battle in Seattle A Phyrric Movie

There are two sides to the film the Battle in Seattle. Yes, immediately one thinks of activists vs. McWorld. But that isn’t what I mean. The Battle in Seattle has great film making paired with some of the most mundane clichés.

The Battle in Seattle is a fictionalized account of true events that took place when activists in Seattle interrupted the WTO (World Trade Organization) from meeting. Non-violent protests and acts of civil disobedience managed to stop the plenary session by barring entry to the Paramount Theatre using creative tactics. However, mobs of people easily get out of control, which was exactly what happened as the downtown core of the city turned into a riot. The mayor of Seattle was forced by higher ups in the US government to take more extreme measures. The police began to control the protestors using force and arrest as a state of emergency was called.

Inspired by these events, first time writer/director Stuart Townsend brings us into the frontlines of Seattle’s battle. For five days, the indignancy and anger of ordinary people is captured. Activists whose issues range from labor concerns to sea turtles join forces. The activists withstand tear gas and rubber bullets for their respective causes, believing in something greater. They do this with heroic ferocity. The film certainly galvanizes sympathy and appreciation for the work of these men and women. This is where the film is commendable.

On the other hand, to convey the story and tell its messages, stock characters with stock situations are used. The worst of the bunch are the characters of the activists, whose lines are often just statements of principle put into dialogue. I don’t know who is the worst: the perpetual optimist? The angry anarchist? The champion of non-violence who is drive by a desire to avenge his brother’s death? The one who quits and has to be reminded of the big picture? Worse, is the “novice” blonde reporter who disobeys her boss to cover the protests instead of the arrival of Clinton. Then the situations – the woman who gets caught in the mob who doesn’t belong there, the showdown between the non-violent protestors and those who are less gentle on the city, the cops brutalizing the crowd.

Fortunately, even shallow characters with rotten dialogue are given a bit of roundness by passionate actors. Ray Liotta does a wonderful job as the conflicted mayor whose hand is forced by the US government. Woody Harrelson is the perfect vehicle for controlled rage. Charlize Theron evokes a great deal of sympathy for her character, the pregnant, politically unaware upscale shopgirl .

Another aspect of the film that I appreciate is the fact that the director indicates the way the protests hinder some of the “good guys” (Médecins sans Frontiers, for example) who are on the inside of the WTO. Of course, I wonder why the presenter for MSF looks like a bedraggled intellectual in need of a shave and a haircut. He heads up a major international NGO and is a physician. Despite the fact the WTO is dominated by corporate interests, it also provides opportunities for necessary networking and visibility of NGOs.

All in all, Battle in Seattle is an important film to see, if only to remind ourselves that we can make a difference and that our voices can be heard.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Duchess -- Oscar Worthy?

I’d been warned prior to seeing the Duchess that the film contained some Oscar worthy performances. Nothing could prepare me more to be critical than advance warning of inherent worthiness. With my scathingly critical glasses on, I readied myself for disappointment.

I am happy to say that disappointment is the last thing that entered my mind. The movie was not just good, but intelligent.
Clashes of culture between new-made politico idealists and aristocracy, between cultural constraints and the extension of rights and freedoms of the Enlightenment, between love and duty are handled with deftness and thoughtfulness. This film works on all levels, with fine acting, fine scripting, fine period ambiance, and, most importantly, a gripping and engaging story.

The It-Duchess of the 18th century, Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire (Kiera Knightley), is married at a young age to a man many years her senior, the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). Georgina is an aristocrat raised in a society bursting with the new idealism of human rights and freedoms from the Reformation, while her husband is a man of the past, interesting in hunting and little else. He only seeks an heir and so treats Georgina with icy indifference in and out of the bedroom. Georgina finds fulfillment as an influential force in all areas: politics, fashion, theatre, socializing, and gambling, until ultimately, she turns to John Gray (Dominic Cooper), her old beau. When the Duke of Devonshire takes Georgina’s closest and only friend into his household as a lover, Georgina comes to face questions about love and duty in a way she never imagined.

Knightley lends Georgina a wonderful innocence. Though she is schooled in rights and freedoms, able to poke fun at her husband through plays created by her circle of artists, she is unable to use her intelligence to better her station in her marriage. She fails to conceive the machinations of others or even to fully understand the consequences of her actions. She is an idealist and a dreamer, one unable to compromise her principles and in consequence, suffers, but does so with dignity. At the same time, the Duke’s coldness is surprisingly thawed in moments of humanity, such as when he takes in the orphaned daughter of a late chambermaid – his own daughter – and raises her in his household. He is bound, at all times, by the rules of old and to him, all ideas are simply passing fads, whereas the thing that persists is lineage.

Knightley delivers a full range of emotion in her performance and at the same time maintains the perfect sense of being well-born no matter what happens. She is perfectly cast in this role, with her youthful jubilance and majestic quality. However, top billing goes to Georgina’s mother, Lady Spencer (Charlotte Rampling). Propriety and restraint rule the day, though one senses the burden she wears as she sees her flighty, free spirited daughter suffer. Lady Elisabeth could easily have been a heartless tyrant, but here she is mediated.

All in all, the film is excellent and one that is worth seeing. I fully expect to see it return to public attention when Oscar nominations are announced.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Yannis Simonides as Socrates in Plato's Apology

Much to the delight of a room full of Grecophiles, Yannis Simonides delivered his gripping monologue as Socrates in a dramatic performance of Plato’s Apology. Altered to some degree from the original text in order to accommodate the modern actor’s tongue, Simonides retained the spirit of the maverick philosopher’s legal defense for his life against the charges of corrupting the young, not believing in gods, and introducing new gods. Of course, different people read Plato’s work for different reasons, finding different points of emphasis. In this case, the translation focused on the importance of virtue and why one should not fear mortality, but little attention was given to Socrates’ disregard for the legal system or his demonstration of his sharp dialectic process. Simonides played him with much more earnest, but these are simply interpretations of the same piece. The alternate visions and understanding of the piece’s meaning and significance are what make it timeless.
Simonides was a perfect Socrates. Affecting a wide mouthed smile and palsied arms, Simonides dottered around on stage, conveying both the age and mental alacrity. Even better, he captured the humor and humanity of the thinker. Too many people place Socrates on a pedestal, rendering him above human foible. This is erroneous, as anyone who has read the dialogues is aware. Socrates, in the dialogues, is sharp and incisive, yes, but also extremely funny and sometimes silly. Simonides showed the philosopher’s multi-dimensionality, without losing his importance. Even when playing the part of Miletos, Simonides transformed himself into the sneering, self aggrandizing upstart with ease. The gorgeous mask set on the center stage chair exuded the awesomeness of a deity, as though humanism itself were personified and present. I was grateful that the mask was on the chair, rather than on Simonides, largely because so much of what makes the monologue work is Simonides’ expressive face. Furthermore, the mask itself was reminiscent of the Greek dramas, in which actors all wore masks that were frozen in distinct expressions.
Following the performance, Simonides allowed the audience to ask him questions, though they mostly focused on his work as an actor and performer. Yannis Simonides is a Yale Drama school trained actor and writer, and an Emmy award winning documentary producer. His credits are many, including a position as the former chair of the acting program at NYU.
Overall, this was a special experience and it is not to be missed as it travels the world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Appaloosa is Western Lite

Ed Harris and Vigo Mortensen see what should not be seen.

Appaloosa should be better than it is. Or maybe it should be worse.

The story over shifting loyalty is compelling. Ed Harris and Vigo Mortensen have unbeatable chemistry as town marshall Virgil Cole and deputy Everett Hitch. Most characters are painted in shades of grey. So, I'm going to single out the tone. Yes, the tone is wrong. Appaloosa isn't quite a comedy, since the humor is often accidental. I can't call it a drama, because it skips into shades of light when it should be dark and subdued. Yet, this lack of seriousness is entirely in opposition to some incredible acting of two very serious characters facing rather serious situations -- not just bad guys with guns, but the advent of the capitalist into the west. Because the film never quite leans towards sheer entertainment or in-depth study, I was left dissatisfied.

The perfect example of misplaced humor occurs when Virgil tries to have a conversation with Russell Brigg's stablehand about the murders of the previous town marshall and his posse. Virgil dismisses his girlfriend Allie French (Rene Zellweger) who retreats to the parlor and begins practicing piano scales. This pivotal scene becomes zany, if not absurdist, with the imprecise notes in the background. This is not the moment for humor and it turns a good scene into a lousy one.

Of course, if the film is a fluffy, saccharine Western, then it isn't funny enough and it seems such a waste for the amazing performances of both Harris and Mortensen's. Harris is perfect as stoney lawman, poker faced, never unruffled at work, but whose entire face breaks out into smile lines in the presence of his beloved. He is a wonderful character, and Harris brings such fullness to him -- even when he stumbles over multisyllabic words. Mortensen can do more with the way he holds his body and looks with his eyes than most people can write in a daily tell-all blog. He is precise as the airy, wiry sharp shooter with his oversized 8 gauge shotgun. Even Zellweger, who does not bring the same game as the other two leads, brings a certain levity to a character that could easily have become a barracuda. Allie Finch is innocent, playful, but also... flaw driven. Her flaw, though, is to align herself with the resident stallion for self protection from her fears -- lonliness, lack of money, lack of protection.

The other gripe I have is that the film lacks subtlety. Though Harris and Mortensen give perfect delivery of every line, I would have preferred less dialogue. Everett talks about feelings, tries to coax Virgil into revealing where his loyalties lie. It would be far more appropriate to convey the same with expression and gesture. Similarly, it was unnecessary to show Allie French splashing naked with her captors, when a gesture of affection would have had the same affect, but without misplaced zaniness.

All in all, the story is interesting, the acting top shelf, but the film lacks the heart, feel, and consideration of more recent "serious" Westerns (Brokeback Mountain, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and lacks the punchiness and overstatement of those that are strictly for entertainment purposes (3:10 to Jima).

Appaloosa opens Oct 10 in theaters in Montreal

Look the Other Way when it comes to Blindness

Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo ask for antibiotics.

The eagerly awaited cinema adaptation of Saramango’s book, Blindness, fails to live up to the literary masterpiece. The territory of man reduced to a Hobbsian state of nature takes on the familiar pattern of many an apocalyptic film. Will it be a Disney ending where the good guys win or cynically conclude the other way?

In the film, a metropolitan city in which no one is particularly nice to anyone else, an infectious white blindness strikes the population. Anyone who comes in contact with one infected is left unable to see anything but a milky whiteness. Only Julianne Moore, in the role of the doctor’s wife, seems to escape the plague, though she plunges herself into the heart of darkness by accompanying her husband into quarantine at a former mental institution. There, she and her husband, the opthamologist, serve as leaders to Ward One and the arriving victims. They create a utopian society, of sorts, until an opportunistic and self preserving man, known once as a Thief and Bartender, declares himself the King of Ward Three. Using a gun and a genuine blind man who is not adjusting to a sudden change, he dominates and terrorizes the institution, demanding first goods, and then women, in exchange for inadequate food rations. Things progress into a war of good vs. evil, until the discovery that the guards are gone and the plague has affected everyone. Then, the doctor and his wife lead the original group to their house.
The film works in its ambiance, as one would expect from outstanding director Fernando Meirelles (City of God). Switching from eyeball bending close ups to shaky patches and the periodic flash of white, he conveys the disorientation of sudden sight loss and the helplessness of wanting to see when one cannot. At crucial moments, he stays with the characters as they cry or lapse into despair, as though their emotional voices trump the need to see. The decay of the ward and the city mirrors the decay in morals as well.

The film fails, though, to create realistic characters that are sympathetic or vital. This is not the fault of the actors, but rather of the script itself. The story never gets to the heart of the struggle of the doctor’s wife to save others at the expense of her morality, or the gulf of grief that has unmoored the Japanese couple. Even the doctor’s decision to turn to the prostitute for solace seems to have no place in the film. The little boy is an afterthought. By focusing on so many characters, none of them are adequately developed and each one seems to develop without adequate justification. The film needs a better script. The switch from the ward to the city is handled poorly, and serves as a recreation of what has already been lived – a movement from lawlessness to… more lawlessness… It ends with redemption, but one wonders why.

Another complaint is that the blindness turns most people into animals, a point illustrated by a pack of dogs tearing apart a deceased man on a flight of steps, while one dog walks past. Are we to believe that everyone is so shallow and brute that a tragedy of great magnitude destroys our humanity. I am more inclined to think otherwise. More than a few people would quickly adapt to being blind, finding inner resources to survive and using their intelligence to thrive. Don’t any of these people have dogs???

Overall, Blindness is a great idea but the terrain is well beaten. It offers nothing new to the theme and strips the book of its best observations.