Don't Look Now (1973)
Little Red Hiding Hood
This one who's blind. She's the one that can see - Laura Baxter
As I write this review it is almost 40 years since "Don't Look Now" was released and as such cinema has changed significantly during that time. I mention this for the simple reason that "Don't Look Now" is a horror movie but one very different to the more recent trend in horror and to be honest significantly different to horror movies which would follow in the 80s and 90s. It is a quiet horror movie, there is one but scene of visual horror and what is now a notorious sex scene but beyond that it is a horror movie which wants us to fear the worse, what maybe about to happen rather than what is happening. The trouble is that for me it didn't make me fear the worse, I know I am the odd one out because there is a lot of love for "Don't Look Now" but I found myself waiting for the inevitable, not knowing how the inevitable was going to come but knowing it was coming and not feeling chills from the expectation. It means that as a horror movie "Don't Look Now" didn't work for me but can still appreciate director Nicolas Roeg's styling and the acting of Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.
As Laura (Julie Christie - Doctor Zhivago) and John Baxter (Donald Sutherland - Kelly's Heroes) settle down to some light work after a Sunday dinner John senses something and as he runs outside he discovers their daughter dead in a nearby pond. In order to deal with their grief the Baxter's end up in Venice where John is working on the restoration of a church. But when Laura has a chance encounter with a couple of British sisters things take an ominous turn as not only does one of them have a psychic ability and sees their dead daughter happily sitting between them but also sense something bad is going to happen to John if they stay in Venice.
It seems to me that for "Don't Look Now" to work you need to be caught immediately when John has a strange vision whilst looking through slides of Italian churches and rushes out to find their daughter dead. If that scene, which to be honest is fantastically crafted, doesn't grab your attention then the rest of the movie is going to struggle to gain your interest. And it is shame because the whole emphasis of the movie is on the fear of what could happen brought on by visions and psychic warnings and it is a good idea. But unless you are in the grip of the story, waiting to see what may happen it just doesn't get you enthralled although without giving too much a way the ending is terrific for many reasons.
So what does that mean for those like me who found "Don't Look Now" a hard movie to get into? Well firstly there is no denying that director Nicolas Roeg has delivered a stunning looking movie, cold even ominous but not cliche. The way he has shot the lanes and canals of Venice is terrific because even a romantic scene of Laura and John on a boat still feels cold. Maybe for those who enjoy looking at movies for more than entertainment will enjoy the depth of his vision and his examination of grief following the loss of a child, I didn't get that but as I said there is no denying Roeg's craftsmanship.
It is Roeg's craftsmanship which makes "Don't Look Now" notorious sex scene something out of the ordinary. Of course there is the rumour that the sex scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland was real rather than simulated, but to me it is just well shot and edited. It does feel incredibly real and passionate to the point it is beautiful, one of the most beautiful yet authentic looking sex scenes you will see in a movie.
And on the subject of Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland both of them deliver brilliant performances delivering grief and the individual way they deal with it. Watching how Laura goes from solemn, almost distant to vibrant after her encounter with the two old sisters is magnificent but then so is John's scepticism and it is down to Christie and Sutherland that you can really feel that change in character. It's not just about grief and with John dealing with the warning from the sisters that if he stays in Venice he will be in danger there is also that sense of being on edge, that sense of disbelief as certain things happen.
And without giving too much away the ending to "Don't Look Now" is not only another beautifully shot scene it is also the one true moment of shock. I won't say why it is a shock but I will say that we then see how everything we have witnessed comes together to make the movie complete whilst still leaving you to ponder what you have watched.
What this all boils down to is that for me "Don't Look Now" didn't do it as a horror, it failed to draw me in and have me hooked on the fear of potential horror. But even so I can appreciate why so many love this movie and from the acting to the directing it is special.
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