Written by: Allen Scott, based on a story by Daphne du Maurier
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Massimo Serato
- Theatrical trailer
Released by: Paramount
My Advice: Rent It if you want an artsy movie, Skip It if you want a fun movie.
The movie Don’t Look Now starts with tragedy. John Baxter (Sutherland) and his wife Laura (Christie) experience the worst event parents can have: the death of their child. The couple tries to move on from their daughter’s drowning by working to restore a church in Venice, a city that is slowly drowning as well. Laura received unexpected solace from two sisters, one who is blind but has the second sight. She tells Laura her daughter is still with her in spirit as it were. While Laura feels relief, John feels anxiety over the sisters’ motives. Adding to his unease are a near-fatal accident, a serial killer on the loose, and the mist-laden, mysterious, twisting city of Venice itself. Can John and Laura trust what they see through the haze and confusion before it’s too late?
[ad#longpost]In brief, this movie is a long exercise in foreshadowing. Which means also that it’s long on visual metaphor, but short on plot. The metaphors are executed beautifully. The opening sequence conveys how tragedy can occur out of the blue by showing the daughter’s carefree playing while the parents relax in their house, a perfect domestic scene that is shattered by her drowning. The father running outside on a seemingly psychic impulse of danger, only to find his child already dead conveys that when tragedy strikes, we can do nothing to prevent it, a theme that reverberates throughout the movie. The winding streets and dark alleys of Venice suggest the uncertainty the couple feels about the blind psychic and their own lives. Roeg started his career as a cinematographer and the shots of Venice in all its decayed beauty made icily clear by the cold light of autumn are remarkable. I could go on and on.
As I said, this movie is short on plot. The pacing can be achingly slow and the constant misdirection and events that lead the story nowhere can make the viewer more irritated than entranced. And the climax isâ€¦odd. I mean what’s with the dwarf? (If you see the movie, you’ll understand) The first-class acting by Sutherland and Christie helps. The desperate happiness shown by Christie when she hears the psychic tell her that her daughter is happy on the other side is heartbreaking. And the equally desperate struggle Sutherland’s character goes through to hold on to his rationality is also well done.
Something else that would have helped is a commentary by Roeg or another member of the cast or crew. A clarification of Roeg’s thinking on picking a particular angle or image could have helped those viewers who aren’t adept at analyzing a movie’s artistry, but there isn’t any help to be found. All there is on the disc is the theatrical trailer that, in my opinion, makes a DVD seem more bereft of features than without it. They have to put something, so they stick a trailer that really doesn’t add anything to the movie itself. So, if you are not a fan of symbolic imagery and atmospheric films, skip on Don’t Look Now.