Good news: the movie version of Jose Saramago's Blindness showed at the Toronto International Film Festival the other day, and critics are saying it's improved dramatically from the version that was panned at Cannes. The painful Danny Glover voiceover? Gone. Some confusing transitions involving Julianne Moore's character? Fixed. The result is a revelation, and writer and co-star Don McKellar explained in an interview with Cinematical how the film recovered from its Cannes disaster. Reviewing the Toronto version, Cinematical's Kim Voynar writes:
I'm happy to report that the newly edited version of Blindness is a vast improvement over what we saw at Cannes. Not only did director Fernando Meirelles (who also made one of the best films ever, City of God) remove the irritating and distracting voiceover, but as a result of doing so had to significantly re-cut, and in the process ended up with a much, much better film. He's tightened it up a lot, particularly a very troublesome bit concerning a major character arc shift for Julianne Moore's character, The Doctor's Wife, which was one of the parts I most had trouble with at Cannes. And while the film's running time is about the same, it now paces much quicker and thus feels like a tauter, shorter film that's much more engaging.
Similarly, InContention.com said the new version of Blindness is "superb." On the other hand, the Hollywood Reporter remained grim, saying the film got a similar "tepid" response to the one it got at Cannes.
So what went wrong in Cannes? The film-makers hadn't actually seen their own movie before it premiered at the festival, McKellar explained to Cinematical:
It's partly a technological problem. We were trying to finish the film in time for Cannes... the picture was being done here, the sound was being done in Brazil, and none of us had seen it until that night in Cannes... It's possible, they can stream the sound over and match it with the picture in Paris, where they subtitle. That's never been the case before... And so when we saw it, it was a bit weird, because there were a lot of things still in debate.
It was "kind of a nightmare" for the high-profile screening in Cannes to be "kind of a test-screening." The Danny Glover voice-over wasn't originally in the script, but was added later, in several different versions. The film-makers "waylaid" Glover in Denver and Salt Lake City and had him re-record the voiceovers a few times. McKellar also explains that when Saramago finally agreed to let him and Meirelles make a film of Blindness, after several rebuffs, he set some conditions. One was that the movie had to be in English, and another was that it had to take place in an unidentified city, which necessitated creating a blend of countries. [Cinematical]