Monday, July 28, 2014

CANON OF FILM: "DON'T LOOK NOW"

DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

Director: Nicolas Roeg
Screenplay: Allan Scott and Chris Bryant based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier



“Don’t Look Now,” is considered a horror classic, but the film’s story is one of the most complex in the genre. In fact, many might watch the majority of the film, not realizing it’s a horror. It doesn’t follow the typical rules of a slasher, and it really seems to destroy the typical psychological horror genre, and those psychological horror fans, as well as the majority of people watching the film will find the ending almost arbitrary and possibly unnecessary. They might be correct regarding that assumption, but the movie is too good to simply ignore quickly. If Antonioni had made a horror film, it might have been something like this film, but it was actually Nicolas Roeg, a cinematographer who was making only his third film as a director at the time, although his second film “Walkabout,” had already become a cult favorite. Roeg’s cinematography expertise is put to critical use, particularly his uses of red, which becomes unmistakably important to the film, to the point where one might not be able to discuss the film without discussing it. The story itself involves an architect named John Baxter (Donald Sutherland), who feels something’s gone wrong, and he’s right, as his little girl drowns in the pond behind their exuberant house, in what appears to be in a New England suburb. An indeterminable amount of time later, he and his wife (Julie Christie) have gone to Venice so he can lead a project rebuilding an old church, which seems to be heavily gothic influenced. His wife then nearly faints at a restaurant where two old women help him out, sisters (Clelia Matania), one of them blind and psychic (Hilary Mason). She claims to have seen their daughter sitting between them at a restaurant, like a void in their lives. This suddenly abolishes her grief over her death, and later that night, her and her husband make love for the first time since their daughter’s death. This is one of the most famous love scenes in film history, as it’s wonderfully edited, intercut with images of the couple getting dressed afterwards, separately, showing them at the same time, both together and apart. The psychic sister also realizes that John, who is a non-believer in all forms of the faith and the supernatural, has the gift of second sight as well, able to see the future, and possibly contact the dead talking to him. He begins to see images, clear as day, such as his wife and two sisters standing on a gondola, which is decorated specifically for a funeral, and a constantly seen image of someone in a red coat that looks eerily similar to the one his daughter wore.  The backdrop of Venice, used as a city of dark corners and alleys that’s surround the water, never seeming more creepy. What’s occurs next as John divulges into his images and thoughts, struggling to find the truth of his images, makes this psychological horror more tragic, when grief, despair and truth collide with and defeat one’s disbeliefs in faith. Based on a short story by famed horror novelist Daphne Du Maurier, it’s probably not the most popular horror films among fans, but the M. Night Shamaylan’s and Jonathan Demme’s probably owe this movie a great deal of influence, it’s quintessential psychological horror, and a film that gets darker with every viewing.  
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