Friday, October 3, 2008

#78: Don't Look Now


Don't Look Now
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Written by Alan Scott and Chris Byrant (story by Daphne Du Maurier)
Released January 1974

As Don't Look Now opens, John and Laura Baxter (played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) are in no danger of winning any Parent of the Year awards. As these two lounge around their country home, enjoying a few afternoon cocktails and ignoring the dirty dishes, their son and daughter are out playing in their massive yard, their son playing with broken glass while their daughter attempts to retrieve her ball from the pond.

John spills a drink on one of his photos and gets a sort of premonition that sends him running to check on his children, but he is too late. He pulls his daughter from the pond, screaming to the skies as they both collapse into the mud. The next thing we the audience know, John and Laura are in Venice (John is hard at work restoring an old church), their son left behind at school. Laura meets two strange sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic. She tells Laura that she can see her daughter, and tells her that she is happy.

Then, the true horror begins: an extended backside nude scene from Sutherland, which segues into an almost too-long sex scene. Roeg thankfully intersplices some nudity from the beautiful Christie, but the damage is done. The incredibly lame, flute-laden soundtrack is so 70s, it's almost laughable.

John is none too happy about the psychic mumbo jumbo, but he allows his wife to pursue it, since she seems happy to finally be able to discuss her daughter's death. John, of course, forgets move rule #456: always heed the words of crazy old lady psychics... especially if they're blind. Soon, John starts having his own visions and begins chasing through the narrow pathways of Venice what appears to be a little girl in a red raincoat (which is what his daughter was wearing the day she drowned).

I have seen Don't Look Now mentioned among the best "horror" and suspense movies, but after watching it, I'd say it barely fits the mold of a horror film. While there is admittedly some suspense, creepiness and a touch of the supernatural, Roeg directs the movie more like a drama. Things don't start to get truly weird until about the last twenty minutes, but there's a nice shocker of an ending waiting for you.

It's not that I wouldn't recommend this movie, but if you tried to have a "Scary Movie Night" and invited some friends, I think more than a few would wonder about your definition of the word "scary."

For more on Don't Look Now:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.

The Don't Look Now trailer, which is WAY more creepy than the movie:


bill barebuns said...

You may not care one bit, but I find this review bloody unfair. It's all too easy to trash any movie, even the ones that are flawless or coming close, by simply ridiculing it. The MAD-method, right?
There is also a good portion of denial in your opinion. Denial of sentimental and thus human feelings. Very few people can watch the scene of Christine's death without being touched and not empathise with John's horror. Yes, they 'asked for it'. Most family fatalities happen this way. By not eagle-eyeing the kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So if you want to ridicule Roeg's movie, why not slaughter it for it's cinematographic and acting aspects? Like pointing out that Sutherland is a stupid soap bum and Christie a silly sexpot?

Dylan Gaughan said...

Congrats, Bill! You've just written your own movie review.

Second, I wouldn't even consider what I wrote a "review." It, like most of the things on this site, is what many people might like to call an "opinion." You know the old saying, opinions are like assholes... everyone has one and they all stink (except yours, of course).

Since this is neither film school nor an actual publication, I like to think I can write whatever the hell I want about something I've seen. So, if I watch "The Fast and the Furious" and all i want to write about it is "(Fart noise.)", I can do just that. I don't need to consider the lighting, or the cinematography, or the staging, or any of that. Of course, I can address any or all of these things, or I can just make a fart noise.

What I doesn't really concern me, and I'm sorry to be so blunt since I do appreciate you taking the time to stop by, is reviews of my "reviews." I mean, do we really need to get Meta here? Should I rewrite my opinion because it didn't address problems you had with the movie? Should I forget about my full time job and full time college classes to write more extensive and scholarly pieces when I am neither getting paid nor intending to turn this into a profession?

I think I'll go with Plan A for now.