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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Don't Look Now Review

Don't Look Now Review
by Joshua Handler
1973, 110 minutes
Rated R

Don't Look Now is a movie that is probably best appreciated when viewed more than once.  It was a success upon its release nearly 40 years ago, and its reputation has only grown since then.  The film, directed by Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth), is truly fascinating and would unfortunately never be made now (for reasons that I will discuss later in this review).  

Don't Look Now follows a couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie who are both very good) who travel to Venice after the accidental death of their young daughter.  However, when they arrive, the husband begins to see visions of her.  

This movie is not a straight-up horror movie, but more of a thriller.  Many have said that it is also a drama about grief which I completely agree with.  It shows the effects of grief on a person and the obsession that takes over because of it.  Director Roeg shows us this, rather than telling us.  He uses dialogue to move the story along, but uses the visuals to play with the viewer.  His use of cutting the past with the present and keeping the action claustrophobic is how he made me feel what the characters were feeling.  Roeg uses Venice to great effect as the labyrinthine structure of the city adds to the claustrophobia.  The narrow streets allow for little room to breathe (and move).  The confusion caused by the editing and the paranoia and claustrophobia caused by the camerawork and setting show how visuals sometimes can be more important than words.

This is a movie that will not make complete sense until the very end.  Though the first chunk is very good [and has one of the most beautiful and (in)famous sex scenes ever filmed], it seems to be going nowhere up until the final stunning and frightening scene that ties the whole movie together.  If you can guess it, let me know.  This one scene was so brilliant that I was daring enough to put this on my "greatest films ever" list.  

I wrote earlier in this review that this film could not have been made now.  This is why.  When people go to see a thriller, they expect action, suspense and gore to be happening every second of the movie.  They are never able to savor the mood, or when a film does turn out to be a mixing of genres, they dislike it and ask for their money back (Drive comes to mind in this case).  In the 1970s, mood and story were everything.  Did Taxi Driver have constant shoot-outs and sex scenes?  No.  If it had been made now, it would have.  But Taxi Driver relied on so much more than lurid material (it did have its fair share, however).  It relied on character development and the gritty feel of New York City in the 1970s.  Films like Taxi Driver's success and brilliance came as much from their cities as their actors and scripts.  Now, the grit and mood are taken out, and this is why Don't Look Now would never have been made now in its current form.

Overall, Don't Look Now is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time.  It has unfortunately been largely forgotten, but should be viewed.  It is everything that is great about '70s cinema and certainly has the potential to be loved again now.


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