Sunday, May 3, 2009

Don't Look Now . . . Good Advice?

Don't Look Now (1973)

Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie

So, apparently you can feel meh about Don't Look Now. It seems like the kind of movie that arty film buffs think you should like, but it doesn't quite deliver.

After the accidental drowning death of their young daughter, Christine, John and Laura Baxter travel to Venice for a "working vacation" as John restores an old Venetian church. While there, Laura meets two sisters who claim they see Christine's presence trying to contact the couple. Laura becomes obsessed with finding out more, but John is skeptical. In the periphery, a serial killer is murdering young women all around Venice. John repeatedly sees a small figure in a red raincoat who reminds him of his deceased daughter. As he pursues the figure, he begins to question his wife's sanity and that of his own.

The cinematography is beautiful in that ethereal 70s way (a la The Omen and Rosemary's Baby), especially the opening scene. Roeg juxtaposes the two Baxter children playing outside with the interior scene of their parents working on individual projects and chatting. He plays with motifs throughout the movie, including the color red, breaking glass, and doubles. The film was shot on location in Venice, which means the backdrop is gorgeous and mood enhancing. There's a slow buildup of suspense that you don't find in many modern movies. All of the elements are there for a wonderful thriller, but the true scare never comes.

The film's flaws overshadow it's good points. There's an unneeded, ridiculously long sex scene (the director's reasoning was to balance out the constant bickering between husband and wife through the rest of the movie, but I'm not buying it). The buildup of suspense is far too slow and never reaches a climax. The ultimate flaw, however, is the ending. It's bizarre (and not in a good way) and it leaves you with an unfinished, unsatisfying "huh?" feeling.

I think this is a great experience for film students, but it's definitely not for mainstream horror fans. For those that want to know the ending without watching the movie, check out Bravo's "100 Scariest Horror Movie Moments" (Don't Look Now is 22) and watch classic horror films like The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, and The Wicker Man instead.

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