Blind Revenge (aka a Closed Book): Film Review

"Blind Revenge"
Campy psychodrama will disappoint those expecting arthouse fare from Raoul Ruiz.

Raoul Ruiz's posthumous film, which starrs Tom Conti and Daryl Hannah, pairs a blind author with a strangely malevolent new assistant.

Take out its superficial references to art history and one or two five-dollar words ("amanuensis," anyone?), and you'd be hard-pressed to identify Raoul Ruiz's Blind Revenge as the work of a critically esteemed auteur, as opposed to remainder-bin "suspense" fodder whose C-list cast is fit only for camp. The two-hander may draw a few Ruiz die-hards to cinemas, but won't stay there long.

Tom Conti plays Sir Paul, a self-important art historian who, blinded four years ago in an accident, hires Jane (Daryl Hannah) to take dictation for his final book, a memoir. The two are to work together in a vast English manor, but they first devote an unlikely amount of energy to fine-tuning the rules that will govern their collaboration. (He forbids, for instance, use of the phrase "no problem.")

Early on, Paul tests Jane's mettle by asking her to describe his disfigured face and, at the last moment, yanking off his sunglasses to reveal eye sockets covered by scar tissue. Music swells dramatically as the camera rushes in -- an attempt to startle us so hokey we wonder if there's a bit of subversive genre parody afoot.

There's not. In fact, Ruiz and screenwriter Gilbert Adair eventually get to more understatedly creepy stuff: While Conti's performance remains hammy, the action draws us in as Jane begins lying to Paul in ways he can't expose. Drama-wise, this is cheap stuff -- we get no clue until the final scenes why the woman wants to torment her employer -- but it isn't unenjoyable, and the string of non-sequitur actions, in an odd way, makes a virtue of Hannah's leaden performance.

Production Company: Feature Productions
Cast: Tom Conti, Daryl Hannah, Miriam Margolyes
Director: Raoul Ruiz
Screenwriter: Gilbert Adair
Producers: Tom Kinninmont, Duncan Napier-Bell, Nicholas Napier-Bell, Tom Reeve, Romain Schroeder
Executive producer: Andrew Somper
Director of photography: Ricardo Aronovich
Production designer: Keith Slote
Music: Stephen Mark Barchan
Costume designer: Kate O'Farrell
Editor: Sean Barton, Adrian Murray, Valeria Sarmiento
No rating, 87 minutes.