Thursday, October 18, 2012


Don't Look Now

Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Written by Allan Scott & Chris Bryant

     Fear, paranoia, grief and love seep through every frame of Nicolas Roeg's brilliant and thrilling Don't Look Now. Personally, this film is one of my all time favorites and being a lover of thrillers, it ranks up as one of the greatest films in that genre. Well, any genre for the matter. It's scary, but not in the bogeyman, cheap thrills or grotesque scare tactics that plague most horror and scary films. The greatness is in the fear and horror of losing a child at such an early age and dealing with psychics that admit to seeing the girl through the afterlife. It is in how the impending doom that is suggested throughout the film brings the viewer into a stronghold of fear and paranoia for these grieving parents in Venice. The narrow streets and unoccupied canals at night bring forth a sense of agony and suspense that creates beautiful tension with limited relief. Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now is a profound example of not only exquisite filmmaking, but proof that scary movies can be sophisticated, thought provoking and create a finale that is worth every moment of time spent in this film's world.
    The film follows a grieving couple John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) as they attempt to cope with the death of their young daughter Christine. The film opens with a chilly fall day in England where we witness the accidental drowning of Christine and then moves forward to the couple in Venice where John, an art curator, is working on a church restoration. The couple meets two sisters at a restaurant, in which one of them is blind and can see those who have died. Laura encounters the sisters in the bathroom and the blind one, Heather, states that she can see Laura's deceased daughter. Laura is overjoyed and through this overwhelming occurrence collapses at the dinner table where John waits. Laura feels she has found a way to keep in contact with there daughter, while John is highly skeptical and in a later scene states to Laura that "Christine is Dead! Dead, dead, dead!"
     Venice is captured beautifully by director Nicolas Roeg and its canals, streets and the gloomy, fall days enhance the haunted and compelling ambiance that suffocates the film with gusto and is a character on its own. The sense of being lost is captured in high form when the couple goes out to dinner away from their usual spot and hears a scream, distant footsteps and streets that are void of any people. The whole scene is filled with, as is most of the movie, an impending doom. John doesn't believe in the illusion that the two sisters are mediums and can speak or see Christine. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are truly mesmerizing in this film. They feed off each other beautifully and are constantly at odds with their differences in rational and irrational feelings. Feelings that will, if left unchecked, lead to the demise of one of them.
     The entire film suggests, through visions, that the unbelieving John is in constant peril. Is non-belief is tested when Laura, who has gone back to England to look after there son who was in an accident, is seen in all black with the sisters riding on a boat away from John. John is paranoid now and goes to the police. They don't truly buy into his insinuation or belief in Laura's appearance and since there is a killer on the loose in Venice, John is highly nervous and at unease since he feels Laura is on her own in Venice. The film also contains vibrant shades of red, in a scarf, circle at the bottom of a glass, paintings and raincoats that continue the suggestion of fear and death that resides around John.
     Nicolas Roeg brings to mysterious life Venice and to the grieving parents with his outstanding and detailed editing. In scenes of great suspense, one being where John is on a scaffolding restoring historic tiles on a picture, is cut so well that this viewer is on the edge of his seat constantly in fear for John's life. The cutting and direction of his rescue in that scene takes you to the edge with the fear of hanging on for one's life and Mr. Sutherland's brilliant acting. Another amazing scene is the highly provocative and realistic sex scene between John and Laura. In what can be assumed that this passion and love is realized with there first romantic encounter since the accident, the editing, going back and forth between the act of love making and the after of the couple getting dressed, creates sublime devotion. It also creates a compelling feeling of the past and the present being constant reminders of grief, agony, love and a unity that has lost its substance.
    Don't Look Now is a film of high caliber and dismal loss. The film can be ambiguous but in that ambiguity brings the viewer craving more. Not all is what it seems and much of that is what makes this film fantastic. The spooky and eerie visuals of Venice and the paranoia, denial and blind optimism that Laura and John imbue with their rational and spiritual thought brings to life the constant doom that resides around every corner. And the film contains in its last twenty minutes one of the best shot and edited endings in film history. Don't Look Now is a pure film. An honest film about love, loss and despair, and the psychological thrills and scares that go along with it.

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