DON'T LOOK NOW
Review by Gordon Justesen
Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Massimo Serato, Clelia Matania
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2015
“Fetch him back! Let him not go!”
I’ve seen very few horror movies that deliver an impact with such potency as Don’t Look Now. You’d be hard pressed to find such a film in this day and age. It’s the kind of film you want to show to this generation just so they can realize how most of today’s horror films pale in comparison.
For me, this is director Nicolas Roeg’s true masterpiece. He creates a film that is simultaneously gorgeous in the way it captures the beauty of Venice, Italy (where most of it was shot) and bleak as there is an unyielding sense of doom that lingers over the entire film. It opens on a horrific note and manages to end on an even bigger one.
What opens the film is the sudden death of a child, who drowns in a pond right outside her home. What makes this sequence even more striking is how it is set up. The father, John Baxter (Donald Sutherland), is inside the home studying slides of churches in Venice. Right when it happens, he spills a glass onto the slide, producing a blood-like image, which leads him to sensing that something is wrong and discovering his daughter’s dead body in the pond.
Some time after the loss, John and wife Laura (Julie Christie) are in Venice where he is helping to restore an old church. It is there that they encounter a pair of sisters, one of which is blind and possesses psychic abilities. She claims to have seen their daughter right alongside the couple while they were eating lunch. John doesn’t believe any of this, that is, until he notices a small figure running around the streets in the nighttime, one that dons the very same red hooded coat the daughter was wearing at the time of her death.
If anything, Don’t Look Now is one of the true originators of the “red herring”, and damn if it doesn’t hold up as the absolute best example of it to this day. The red raincoat, and the color of red in general, serves as one throughout the film. And trust me when I say that by the conclusion, you will have felt like a ton of bricks have hit you once you see what all of the sightings of red lead up to!
Another fascinating aspect of the film is how it is structured. Events unfold in a slightly fragmented manner following the opening scene, something rarely ever used in this particular genre. If anything, Roeg has created one of the most artistically frightening films in existence.
The film is also noted for containing perhaps the most realistic love scene in film history. It remains pretty steamy even by today’s standards, so I could only imagine the controversy it stirred back in 1973. It was also the very first scene shot for the movie, just so the understandably nervous Christie and Sutherland could get it over with.
In short, Don’t Look Now is a film ahead of its time. Nicolas Roeg took some heavy chances in making the film the way he did, and the result is a film that many can’t stop talking about today. If you’re wanting a film with authentic chills, and you have yet to see this masterwork, you owe it to yourself now more than ever!
It’s already the second month of 2015 and Criterion has delivered two striking Blu-ray presentations of 70s era classics (the second one will be reviewed in the coming week). This may just rank with the absolute best HD handlings of any 1970s release. The opening scenes of the British countryside grab you right away with the pristine color and astounding detail. And Venice has never looked more remarkable. You will indeed feel as if you are there. The color of red is displayed powerfully too, making the scenes where the color appears have an even powerful effect than before!
It may just be only a Mono track, but then again Criterion always managers to work wonders in an unexpected way. The haunting score by Pino Donaggio, who would go on to provide equally memorable scores for several Brian De Palma films, is heard most effectively. Dialogue delivery is handled most perfectly, and the many scenes of terror definitely feel more potent in this presentation!
Criterion has delivered yet another grand listing of extras as only they are capable of. We don’t get a commentary track, but what is included more than makes up for it. To start with, there’s a new conversation between editor, Graeme Clifford, and film writer/historian Bobbie O’Steen, as well as “'Don't Look Now,' Looking Back”, a short documentary featuring Nicolas Roeg, Graeme Clifford and cinematographer Anthony Richmond. Next up is "Death in Venice," a 2006 interview with composer Pino Donaggio, in addition to my favorite of the supplements; “Something Interesting," a new documentary on the writing and making of the film, featuring interviews with Richmond, as well as actors Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland and co-screenwriter Allan Scott. An equally fantastic extra is "Nicolas Roeg: The Enigma of Film," a new documentary on Roeg’s style, featuring interviews with the likes of Danny Boyle and Steven Soderbergh. Rounding out the features is a Q&A with Roeg at London’s Cine Lumiere from 2003, a Trailer and a terrific insert featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson.
After years of only having a bare-bones DVD, the arrival of Don’t Look Now on Criterion Blu-ray is a cause for celebration. And it remains a thriller worth revisiting because of it’s enigma-like presentation. A film that remains chilling to this very day!