Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)

Obviously a lot’s been made of how Roeg started out as a cinematographer, and it shows here. The biggest idiot in the world could spot this movie’s motifs of water and the color red…but this movie seems to go a lot deeper than those surface images. I think I finally got out of this what I was hoping to get out of The Man Who Fell to Earth when I watched that last year: a film that blends image with symbolism without going over-the-top or overly-artsy. Instead, that movie was like a two hour bad music video; Don’t Look Now was more understated, and a vast improvement. As I was watching, I wasn’t a fan, simply because I “didn’t understand it”…but I realize now it’s not meant to be “understood,” at least on first viewing. Here’s a film that seamlessly blends past with present, past with future, and present with future in a way that’s hypnotic and psychological, almost to the point of feeling utterly natural. Images like the now-famous sex scene and the two instances of Julie Christie with the sisters on the boat just pass you by upon first seeing them, but when put into the grand scheme of things, they suggest things as out there as psychic visions and as commonplace as all time coalescing in the present. All of this, by the way, takes place within a surreal and maze-like Venice that puts this movie in the ranks of The Third Man and Touch of Evil in terms of setting influencing mood to become a character in and of itself. Confusing? Absolutely, but that’s what makes it so damn interesting. Hell, that ending (which was ruined for me by Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments…) was terrifying in its final reveal of

***SPOILER***
a dwarf scarier than Warrick “Leprechaun” Davis. It’s an image and a murder that are so unexpected that it’ll easily shock the audience, while at the same time serving as the final barrier that Donald Sutherland cannot cross. That freaky little dwarf, at first a visual representation of the past that tantalizes both John and the audience, becomes an all-too terrifying thing of the present, denying John access to the inaccessible past and that which he can no longer have.

***END SPOILER***
That shock and the final montage (both epic and tragic in its tying everything together) are terrifyingly unique, and at the same time the most formulaic element of what’s anything but a formulaic “horror/thriller” movie. Quite an enigma for a movie that’s already an enigma in and of itself, and one that needs to be seen and thought about many times over to soak everything in.

9/10

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1 comment so far

  1. kush on

    Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space.


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