CRITICS VIEW BLINDNESS WITH JAUNDICED EYE

Several trade reporters attending the Cannes Film Festival observed that Blindness, the, er, dark film that opened the festival Wednesday night, will need to garner some favorable reviews if it is to become successful at the box office when it opens in September. It has received none so far. Daily Variety noted that the film was "applauded at its gala screening, though not wildly so." The trade paper's reviewer, Justin Chang, wrote that Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles may have turned out a "slickly crafted drama" but that the tale by Nobel laureate Jose Saramago "emerges on screen both overdressed and undermotivated,scrupulously hitting the novel's beats yet barely approximating, so to speak, its vision." Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter commented that while the film may be provocative cinema, "it also is predictable cinema: It startles but does not surprise." Fionnuala Halligan, writing for Britain's Screen Daily, said that "Meirelles never illuminates convincingly the wrenching fear of his source material." Derke Malcolm, writing in the London Daily Mail concluded that the film, "though palpably sincere, is often both repetitive and dull." And Peter Howell in the Toronto Star remarked that the film commands "more respect than love" and predicted that it "won't be a guaranteed multiplex rouser."

SAG-AMPTP TALKS TO RESUME BY MAY 28

The Screen Actors Guild has agreed to return to the bargaining table on May 28, or perhaps earlier, following the presumed conclusion of current negotiations between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. SAG officials are due to provide members with an update on their position on the remaining issues facing the negotiators at a "town hall" meeting on Monday.

LATEST ELOISE VIEWS HER PORTRAIT

Nine-year-old Australian actress Jordana Beatty, selected just three weeks ago to play the title role in Eloise in Paris, has already made her first promotional appearance. On Tuesday Beatty arrived at New York's Plaza hotel, where the famous portrait of Eloise, taken down during the hotel's recent refurbishment, was rehung outside the Palm Court restaurant. The Plaza, the setting for Kay Thompson's Eloise novels (six-year-old Eloise lived on the top floor), reopened Sunday after undergoing three years of renovations that turned the hotel's original 805 rooms into 282 hotel rooms and 181 condominiums. Production of the movie -- presumably the hotel will have a role -- is due to begin in August.

CAN NICHE AUDIENCE MAKE SEX AND THE CITY A HIT?

Analysts are sharply divided over whether New Line's Sex and the City will benefit from or be hurt by its avid female fan base, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Thursday). "It's easier to find $2-a-gallon gas than a straight man eager to see the movie," the Times commented. On the other hand, some thirtysomething women "are organizing ladies' night viewing parties" around the film. While some analysts are forecasting an opening weekend of around $40 million, others are predicting a figure of half that amount. A lot depends on whether younger women (the film is rated R, so the very young are excluded from screenings) join their elders at the multiplex, the Times suggested, noting that interest among that group is growing.

FAMED PUBLICIST WARREN COWAN DIES AT 87

Warren Cowan, whose Rogers and Cowan public relations company has represented many of Hollywood's leading luminaries and the music industry's best-selling recording artists over more than a half century, died Wednesday of cancer at age 87. His clients included Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly, John Wayne, Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Sylvester Stallone, Ronald Reagan, The Doors, Elton John, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Michael Jackson.

Brian B.