Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't Look Now

I became aware of Don't Look Now (1973) several years ago when the Bravo Channel first did its countdown of the 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and this movie appeared on the list. It looked interesting enough, and after hearing what it was about, it sounded like it was up my alley. The problem was twofold: the Bravo Channel gave away the ending (it'll give a warning about blood and gore but not for spoilers), and John Landis' comment on said ending took away any possibility of me taking the climax seriously. The challenge for me was to try to become involved in the film and be absorbed by the journey if not the destination. Sadly, the knowledge of the resolution distracted me too much. This was a disappointment.

Following the drowning death of their young daughter, architect John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) and his wife Laura (Julie Christie) spend time in Venice where he's overseeing the renovation of a historical church. They meet a pair of sisters (Clelia Matania and Hilary Mason), one of whom is a blind psychic who says she can see their daughter. However, she also warns John is in danger while he's in Venice. Laura takes that as a sign to leave, but John is doubtful until weird things begin happening around him. He also begins seeing a small figure on the streets at night wearing a similar red raincoat to the one his daughter wore the day she died.

Let's get to the good first. The film has an unearthly, unsettling atmosphere. It feels creepy, and as you're watching it, you're not sure what's real. The authentic Venice setting really adds a lot of character to the proceedings, and the performances by Christie and Sutherland are solid; they feel like a real couple coping with a trauma. The fact she really wants to believe her daughter is still present and he refuses to believe gives the supernatural occurences a more poignant, deeper meaning than most ghost movies.

But it's all for naught. Everything is buildup, buildup, buildup, and the payoff is a letdown, whether you knew what it would be or not. The film moves so slowly, you keep expecting it the resolution to be something that makes it all worthwhile, but it doesn't. The climax doesn't make sense, or at least its resolution. Maybe I just don't get it, but I don't see what it had to do with the rest of the movie. It felt arbitrary and comes out of nowhere.

Don't Look Now is a letdown. The ingredients for a classic are there, but it just didn't come together. Maybe the spoiled ending made me biased, or maybe my expecations were too high.Perhaps I can re-visit it in a few years with a more open mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment