#181 Don’t Look Now

(1973, Nicolas Roeg)

“The one who’s blind. She’s the one who can see”

I’d always been kind of curious to see Don’t Look Now despite not knowing much about it beyond the fact that we see a little girl in a red coat throughout the movie. I’d heard it was spooky and weird and another example of a great British horror movie. So let’s watch it and see if it’s actually any good.

So, the plot. Don’t Look Now is about John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie respectively), a couple living and working on a church restoration project in Venice. While at a restaurant, Laura finds herself talking to a couple of elderly sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania), one of whom is blind but psychic, proving this by saying she saw the Baxters’ dead daughter Christine sitting between them. Over the course of the film strange events occur, and John begins to see a strange figure in a red coat that he believes is their daughter.

Don’t Look Now is a weird film. It’s one of those films that leaves you wondering what the hell you just watched and leaving you confused about whether or not you actually like it. Pretty much like Eraserhead, then, only not set in some drugged-up alternate universe.

Let’s start with things I liked about the movie. I really liked the strange ethereal vibe given off by the sisters that makes them feel very creepy throughout the events of the movie. We’re never really sure what’s happening with them most of the time, and it’s hard to shake the tension they generate right up until the movie’s climactic moments.

I also really liked the interaction between Sutherland and Christie, who played a convincing couple for the most part and worked off each other pretty well. There are moments when Sutherland can come across as a little stern, but underneath this there is a genuine affection shown towards his co-star, and John’s worries for her safety later on are very believable. Admittedly, both actors show typical 70s British movie stuffiness, but that can’t be helped.

I also liked the overall atmosphere of the movie. A lot of the movie’s events overlap each other in strange ways, and while it could be a little confusing to watch, it all does make a strange sort of sense when you finally step away from the movie and give it some thought. This was the key reason I was initially divided on the movie, since it felt like it was plotted awkwardly, but then some later reading put everything in a little more perspective for me and I actually found a strange appreciation for it.

Now things I didn’t like. First of all, I had the same issue here that I did with another Nicolas Roeg movie I’ve previously reviewed (The Man Who Fell To Earth), and that’s Roeg’s obsession with focusing on bizarre details and putting focus on things that seemingly don’t matter. Even when I’ve pieced the weirder aspects of the plot together to make some sense, there are still things that don’t seem to have much overall relevance.

One major thing is the sex scene partway into the movie. Surprisingly explicit and bordering on softcore porn, it adds nothing to the plot at large and seems to have been shoehorned in because, hey, let’s have a sex scene for the hell of it.

The ultimate shocking reveal towards the end of the movie is also poorly explained and raises even further questions about what’s been going on the entire time. It’s very sudden and has little to do with the events prior to it to the point where it can feel very disappointing.

Overall, I’m still not sure whether or not I liked Don’t Look Now. It was a bizarre mix of pretentious and atmospheric, and the plot requires multiple viewings in order to really understand. I wouldn’t call it one of the best horror movies ever made though. It’s too vague and floaty for that.

Starring Donald Sutherland & Julie Christie
Written by Daphne Du Maurier (short story) and Allan Scott & Chris Bryant
Produced by Peter Katz
Music by Pino Donaggio
Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond
Edited by Graeme Clifford

Favourite Scene: I actually enjoyed when John started freaking out and seeing weird visions of things, leading the police to view him with suspicion.
Scene That Bugged Me: The sex scene. What did it actually achieve? Why was it relevant?

Watch it if: You like weird but slightly awkward British movies
Avoid it if: You don’t like red coats

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Posted on May 2, 2013, in 1970s, Mystery, Thriller, United Kingdom and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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