The much-ballyhooed film Blindness, a Fernando Meirelles (the harrowing City of God, the exquisite Constant Gardener) film starring Julianne Moore (the vagina in Robert Altman's Short Cuts), has been labeled a "misfire" at Cannes. Well, at least by New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis. The movie, some sort of political allegory (based on the Jose Saramago novel) about a whole town stricken with blindness (save for the wan, desperate Moore), is apparently "allegory with a very large capital A." Ahh, too bad. I was looking forward to this one. Oh wait, there's more? The film is also "nasty, brutish and nowhere near short enough." Ouch. Well, let's take ol' Manohla's early review with a little grain of salt. The film could change! Dargis could be completely wrong (as she often is)! If she's not, though, bad news for Miramax, which was pinning some major Oscar hopes on this one. Watch the trailer for the film, plus experience a little more of Dargis' ire, after the jump.

"Blindness" tracks the utopian ups and dreadful downs of various people — a strong Mark Ruffalo is the Doctor, and a nearly as good Julianne Moore plays the Doctor's Wife — who are interned after a national outbreak of contagious blindness. One bad thing leads to another (it's a Hobbesian world after all), including mass rape, exceptional production design (Toronto looks a mess) and a lot of acting from Danny Glover (the Man with the Black Eye Patch), Gael García Bernal (the King) and Maury Chaykin (the Accountant). Curiously, the film's carefully calibrated racial and ethnic demographics echo those of the central castaways in "Lost," though any given episode in that show's best seasons is far better. Smarter too. A maximalist who never made a shot he didn't seem to want to tweak, Mr. Meirelles, with his heavy hand, is a poor fit for a story already heavily burdened by an allegory that's at once obvious (we're blind!) and elusive (because of ...?). It isn't enough that people turn blind here without rhyme or reason, or that the blind are soon leading the blind with no end in sight, both literally and figuratively. Mr. Meirelles also has to flood the screen with a sizzling (blinding) white, which causes your pupils to constrict. That's a cool enough trick the first five or six times, but it grows wearisome when you realize that Mr. Meirelles is capable only of bopping the audience on the head, not engaging what's inside those heads.

Shaking Up the Crowd at Cannes [NYT]