What's Stopping Cannes From Embracing Bleak New Julianne Moore Film?

The Cannes rumor mill is whirring at full speed again today as the trades pick up whispers that the Julianne Moore/Mark Ruffalo drama Blindness is likely to occupy the opening-night slot. The Toronto Star is saying it's a done deal, but it's not official, and we're not so sure; with barely two weeks remaining before the May 14th opener, word over the Defamer transom suggests that Blindness is bad enough to make festival programmers wait — and make distributor Miramax stall — before committing the plum spot to a stinker.

But isn't this the same festival that opened in 2006 with The Da Vinci Code? Just how bad is "bad"?

Look at it this way: Festival organizers knew what they wanted two years ago, announcing Da Vinci's selection in January of 2006 — nearly four months before it screened. Moreover, Sony knew what it had: A shabby, critic-proof, mass-market lark. Cannes' previous two openers were different — Lemming (2005) and Bad Education (2004) were announced April 19 and Feb. 21 of their respective years. Wong Kar-wai's 2007 opener My Blueberry Nights was locked in by April 19 of last year. We're pushing May Day, and the odds-on favorite for 2008 — which most observers were already surprised to see left off the competition slate last week — has yet to receive the festival's official blessing.

Director Fernando Mereilles was being either skeptical or falsely modest a few months back when he told one of us in a interview: "I'd love to take it to Cannes. I don't know if I'm going to get a slot, but I'd love to. It's a very dark story. But that's our goal. It's sold all over the world — there will be some support." Hey, man, you don't need to convince us. Also, we know there have been at least a few Miramax test screenings, and if the studio knows it has a misfire on its hands, the last thing it wants is to sacrifice it publicly four months before Oscar season.

If it were up to us, we'd just insist that Cannes get Indiana Jones 4 out of the way on opening night and let the rest of the fest speak for itself. But if it's not Blindness, what else should we be looking for? Four hours of Che? We'd take anything at this point.

UPDATE: Surely in swift response to our well-placed suspicions, the Cannes Film Festival just officially announced Blindness as its opening-night selection. Confirming other speculation in its same dispatch, the fest also named the Barry Levinson/Robert De Niro pairing What Just Happened? as its closing-night film.