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Old 02-18-2009, 06:56 PM
Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now

Don't Look Now (1973)

Nicolas Roeg's "Don't Look Now" is a movie that is filled to the brim with atmosphere and mood, creating a very realistic setting with the backdrop of Venice. This is a movie that has been heavily praised by fans as being an unforgettable horror-thriller, but while there are certainly elements of the genre included, it is meant more as a movie to make you think.

John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) live in England with their two children, Johnny and Christine. One day, while John and Laura are working inside the house, Christine, wearing a red coat, and Johnny are playing outside. Christine falls into a nearby pond, leading to her death despite her father's attempt to save her. Following her death, John and Laura move to Venice where John is restoring an old church. In a restaurant, Laura meets two sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather has what they call "second sight" and says that she can see Christine seated between John and Laura, laughing.

Laura feels the need to talk more about her daughter with them while John remains skeptical. However, his skepticism is questioned as he sees the figure of a small child running around Venice with a red coat on, but the hood is always up. This leads to the films infamous climax where what he sees and what he thinks he sees all finally makes sense when he finally encounters the red-coated figure.

The most notable pats of this film are the beginning and the ending. The beginning sequence of their daughter's death establishes a kind of power that John has. While Christine has been playing outside, he has been reviewing slides of churches, one of which has the image of someone in a red coat with the hood up. He spills his drink on the slide, making it look as though blood is pouring from the hooded picture. John looks up and suddenly knows something is wrong. He runs outside to see Christine under the water. He desperately tries to save her, but it is too late.

The first scene was amazing, which makes it disappointing that the film decides to use really bad pacing throughout the entire middle act to get us to the conclusion. The film begins to meander from one scene to the next until Laura finally meets the sisters. Then there is a little more meandering until a strange scene in which Heather attempts to contact Christine in the afterlife, from which she gets the message that John's life is in danger if he stays in Venice. It is quite possible seeing as how there is a serial killer loose on the streets who has been killing people and throwing them in the canals.

When Johnny, the Baxters' son, has a minor accident at boarding school back in England, Laura decides to fly back and check on him. Meanwhile, John almost falls to his death at the church when a scaffolding beneath him breaks. Then comes a scene which sets up the remainder of the film. While he is on a boat, he sees Laura on another boat with the two sisters. He was quite sure she left for England that morning. This leads him to put out a police report to find his wife and the sisters. He calls the boarding school Johnny is at to check on him and after a few words with a staff member, his wife gets on the phone....

This brings us to the ending, which I won't ruin here. It's an ending that you need to see fresh with your own eyes so you can make up your mind about it on your own. His confrontation with the red-coated figure has had many different reactions. Some have found it to be a very silly ending, others have been horrified, and some have found it to be very thought provoking. In all honesty, my first reaction was to laugh, as I found it a very strange and silly way to bring about the ending of the film.

In fact, this part of the ending doesn't really matter; the figure in the coat was just a means of tying the movie together. It has left some people asking many questions, complaining that that's what it leaves us with instead of answers. My complaint was, besides pacing, was that the screenwriters, Allan Scott and Chris Bryant, chose not to develop the story with John's unique ability more. Granted, this screenplay was based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, so perhaps it was the same in the original story, but you would think something as interesting as that would get more attention. Perhaps the ending was meant to be more of an answer to that question, for that is where we learn that his ability was quite real.

It has also been said that this film is masterful in building up suspense. This is true for about the last 10 minutes of the movie, but for the rest of the film, the pacing is much to hindered to create any real suspense. There were just too many scenes that didn't need to be there, especially the awkwardly edited sex scene. Reflecting on the ending some more, when you think about it, it feels a bit anti-climactic, which feels even stranger given all the suspense leading up to it. However, it is still one of the most unique endings to a horror-thriller that I have seen, taken seriously or in jest. If only they had put as much thought into the middle act. 2.5/4 stars.
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