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Don't Look Now (1973) * Favourite Review *

 

The tale of a mildly disconcerting child... who dies
The tale of a mildly disconcerting child... who dies

Genre: Drama Horror Mystery Thriller (Italy, UK)

Starring: Julie Christie (Doctor Zhivago Fahrenheit 451), Donald Sutherland (M*A*S*H; • The Eagle Has Landed)

Directed By: Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout The Man Who Fell to Earth)

Overview: A British couple living in Venice meet a psychic woman who claims to be able to see their deceased daughter, and claims that John also has the gift of second sight. Laura wants to learn more while John wants nothing to do with her.

It's rare, very rare, that a film of this ... magnitude... evades my radar for so long. Granted, my wave of 'truly important cinema' study only began a couple years ago but when a friend lent this to me, explaining that he didn't find it so hot for the hype, the only question I had was, "uh, what hype? I've never heard of it".

I watched this one Saturday afternoon as a 'between reviews' film, not realizing it was, in fact, one of the 1001 movies I had to see before I bought the farm.

Theatrically, the major problem this film had  was timing. It was overshadowed by a film that was released just a month before. You may have heard of it - The Exorcist. I, myself, found the end of this story laughable, the kind of climax that made me ask of a film with such a terrible title, "Seriously? After all that awesome, you couldn't come up with anything better than that?"

I'd much rather go on about what makes this film great however, what makes it work.

First, Don't Look Now is famous for its sex scene.  The scene is incredible because the couple is so perfectly natural in this moment, so much so that it is rumoured for being actual Julie on Donald action.

Throughout the film the couple have some heated arguments, and due to their frequency, the director felt the need to add an improvised sex scene to convey the love the couple shared as well. 

The scene includes editing that cuts in the next moment of their slowly getting dressed for a dinner.  Donald stands in front of the mirror, naked, brushing his teeth, while his wife is also there, nude, doing her own thing. Don't Look Now helped me realize the immediacy films tend to have in 'getting on' with a sex / nude scene, as though throwing in a slice of 'cheeky' for the folks at home rather than making it relevant to the characters. Don't Look Now, in that famous scene, did such a good job of conveying such familiarity between an onscreen couple that you know how close they are, that the fighting is just a fleeting thing compared to their sense of belonging to one another. Because it shows long takes of nude people in an everyday moment, we get a proper glimpse into their routine and we get it, we get them in this vulnerable yet trusting moment of theirs.

What Don't Look Now should be praised for, however, is not the sex scene, it's the atmosphere that is so perfect as to teach valuable lessons about suspense in cinematographic style.

Don't Look Now is creepy in that way that makes you doubt everything. Those I watched this with kept saying "Something's off about that person too!" To compare to David Lynch's odd characters would be too severe.  These quirks are far more subtle. Enhanced by the mood that has been set before, we're left with nothing more than a constant gut-feeling of something amiss.

Film tends to be good for showing us exactly what we need to know to set up a moment - something as simple as showing the a close-up of the gun lying next to a passed-out person, well you know what that means already. Watching Don't Look Now's restaurant scene where we're shown a lunch table, a close-up of a blind woman's broach, the waiter bringing a tray of food to the next table, a snippet of conversation, followed by a rapid close-up of people moving behind Laura... you just know something's about to happen, you're on edge, and Don't Look Now is one of the films I will forever reference as being able to perfectly deliver such red herrings. Rather than the camera showing us what we need, it shows us things in much the same way our own eye would during a time of high stress or danger: perception jumps, everything is slower... when a lens can recreate in us the same feeling our own mind would, that's more than impressive. What's great is that this is done frequently throughout the film, and for that reason alone is worthy of being brought out of the obscurity it lived in... in my life at least...  

Yeah, pretty heart-wrenching actually
Yeah, pretty heart-wrenching actually

Overall Rating: 84% (Why Not!? It's Beautiful!)
Aftertaste:

For me, it was just an issue of not having solid enough storytelling. Though not particularly striking a deep cord in me personally, it scored quite well because it's a terrifically shot, artistic, atmosphere-rich film.

Go ahead, it's a safe bet.

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Hmm...I hated this movie myself...besides the pretty interesting sex scene. The little person was very strange and really made no sense and I just didn't care about any of the characters. Oh well...different strokes for different folks as they say.


Whoa there Kristal, I NEED you to know that I also hated the film for all the reasons you stated.
I wholeheartedly agree!

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