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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 38.1%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 15 user ratings

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Don't Look Now
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by MP Bartley

"...because if you do YOU WILL DIE!!"
4 stars

Grief is a unique process. It destroys some individuals, whilst some find it a strangely liberating experience, helping to make them as a person.

One couple coping with grief in different ways is John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie). They are mourning the loss of their young daughter, Christine, who drowned in the pond at the bottom of their garden. It was an event that John seemed to have a strange premoinition of, yet was unable to stop. To aid their healing, they take a trip to Venice where John sets to work restoring a decrepit church, whilst trying to get over his heartache. Laura meanwhile makes friends with two British sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be a psychic. She reveals this to Laura as she tells her that she can see Christine, happy and sitting with both her and John. John does not believe in this, but soon finds himself distracted both by a series of murders in Venice and glimpses of a small figure darting through the alleys and canals. A figure wearing the bright red raincoat that Christine drowned in...

Don't Look Now regularly nestles in critics top ten lists of the scariest movies ever made, yet this is a deceiving pigeonholing of it. For the most part it doesn't play out like a horror film, with Roeg making it more like a French new wave film. We hang out with John and Laura as they patiently try to rebuild their lives, and Roeg finds a fascination with the most trivial moments or minutiae that they encounter, giving the film a very human and poignant centre, aided by two terrific central performances. He fractures time and narrative too, most famously when intercutting between John and Laura making love, and getting dressed for dinner afterwards. One element that does tie the film together is the specific shade of red that Christine drowned in. It's a shade that can be found in just about every scene, and lends the film a circular, inescapable logic. It's a subtle signifier that pulls us, along with the characters, towards the end. It's the irrestible pull of the water that a drowning man might feel...

This sense of a logic that you can't be freed from, is reflected in the setting. This is not the picture postcard Venice that we're used to seeing, this is a dank, dirty, crumbling city. It looms large over John and Laura, and John in particular often finds himself lost in its labyrinthian streets and paranoid alleyways. It's an undeniably slow film, but has a pull that you can't tear your eyes from. It has the feel of both a tumbling, graceful tragedy and the hypnotic glare of a rattlesnake. It soothes you into a false sense of security before striking you with a viscious bite.

And what a bite it has. The brief glimpses of the red coated figure are creepy enough, but it is the end that gives the film it's kick, and its place in critics' top ten lists. It is at this point that Roeg's painstaking build up becomes clear, and the chain of events that Christine's death set in motion comes tragically full circle, as fate is revealed as a cruel mistress at times. The film takes its time getting there, but it is worth every minute for an utterly surreal and horrifying ending that goes beyond the bleakness of Night of the Living Dead for example, into something much more nightmarish. Good luck sleeping afterwards...

Don't Look Now is equal parts baffling, beguiling, terrifying and annoying. It is a film that with its meandering narrative and Roeg's elliptical style, will divide people as cleanly as a sharp kitchen knife. Yet for those who give it attention, it pays its dividend, as surely as John and Christine pay the price for not sharing their grief.

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originally posted: 04/21/07 07:12:17
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User Comments

3/15/17 Louise (the real one) An unsettling film and superbly made. 5 stars
9/10/10 Karamashi A classic horror masterpiece. Underated too! 5 stars
1/31/10 randy todger pure class 5 stars
4/28/07 The Critic If you like slow and dull movies with elderly women having orgasms, this is perfect. 2 stars
9/05/06 William Goss Don't see what all the fuss is about. Dense and dull. 2 stars
7/29/05 John dense, genuinely scary and entertaining 5 stars
10/06/04 SXC BEAST S C A R Y!!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/24/04 DM Still have no idea what the fuck happened in it, but I like it anyway 5 stars
6/14/03 Alice Saw it as a little girl, very unique filming... Still like it. 5 stars
1/30/03 The Grinch very atmospheric and moody.....shows where M Night Shamalamadingdong got most his ideas... 4 stars
11/05/02 Charles Tatum This scared me to death 5 stars
7/07/01 Elvisfan Unforgettable. Christie and Sutherland great duo 5 stars
11/24/98 Mr.Pink a modern classic 5 stars
11/13/98 little jerry this is the best film roeg has ever made and shows up his later work for the drivel it is. 4 stars
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  09-Dec-1973 (R)
  DVD: 03-Sep-2002



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