Don't Look Now (1973) (R)
Once again, I am amazed by how much I don't understand Nicolas Roeg. The director and writer has done some odd, cult films: "The Man Who Fell to Earth". He's also done some wondrous movies "Walkabout"; but his odd sense of narrative displacement is never coherent and with "Don't Look Now", that's pretty much necessary.
Reeling from the death of their daughter, John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura (Julie Christie) Baxter are living in Venice now where John works as an preservationist. He helps restore buildings and the one he's working on right now doesn't seem to be going very well.
His wife has slipped into a depressive state, but one day while they're out having lunch, she runs into two peculiar ladies. One of them is blind and claims to have second sight—ironic because she's blind—and the other serves as the assistant. The blind woman tells Laura that she has communicated with the dead daughter. The daughter says that she is happy. Imagine Laura's surprise when she hears this—she is so overwhelmed by it all that she moves to the next room and passes out quickly.
Carted off the hospital, Laura awakens to be perfectly happy, content with the explanation of the paranormal. Her husband is not so easily convinced, but this is the turning point of the movie, when everything begins to shift and twist for the worse.
"Don't Look Now" is confusing, just on a narrative level. Roeg infuses so much imagery into the piece, from the blood stained photos to the water itself, hiding death underneath it, that it becomes almost unbearable and impossible to follow the film itself. This much is typical of the director; but unlike some of his other pieces, it doesn't belong here. "Don't Look Now" is a strict and tight thriller and Roeg's tendencies to wander are so out of place here.
Never once does he allow the story a chance to carry itself, instead relying on abstract and surreal methods to convey it. The weakness can be seen in the movie's "surprise" third act reveal, which gives us quick flashes and clips of the entire movie leading up to the ending, as if somehow, suddenly they all make sense. Instead, what we realize is that "Don't Look Now" has evolved from a thriller to just a goofy horror movie, one that is never scary and never truly explained.
The most famous aspect of the movie is Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie's love making scene, which convinced the audiences of the time that the two were romantically intertwined. Instead of the plot, the film is notorious for its sex scene...isn't that wonderful?
Yes, the sex scene is quite something to watch; but it is no more daring that some modern directors of even some films being made contemporary with "Don't Look Now" like "A Clockwork Orange". Then again Roeg and Kubrick both have their curious little traits and I don't know which one is more upsetting.
The streets of Venice have a neo-noir that lends itself to the film. Alas, I wanted this to be something like "Body Heat"; but instead, it plays out more like "The Tourist" meets Andy Warhol.
There are genuinely effective moments in the movie, but the odd zoom-ins and the quick pans, the notice of a character's upset look—they all sink the movie to a place where it shouldn't be.
In the end, there is no real answer, there is no validity to the story; and unfortunately, there seems to be no point. You can argue that it all has some grand philosophical or religious connotations...that's fine, I just don't care enough to find them.
Posted by Micah Jones