Sunday, August 9, 2009

Don't Look Now (1973)
--- horror

Dir: Nicolas Roeg

I came upon this movie twice when searching or looking for other films. It came up once as a suggestion on my Netflix subscription. Then it came up on IMDB as a related film. Fortuitous or not, I figured I should give it a shot. I went into it blind as bat, not having read anything but the description of the film. I read no reviews before. After watching it, I looked up other reviews and such and found it has it's place in film history.

"Don't Look Now" is an unassuming horror/suspense film, that film tells the story of a couple recovering from the horrific accidental drowning of their young daughter. At the time of her death she was wearing a red rain slicker, and the parents John and Laura Baxter (played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) soon become estranged. They decide to leave their only son and take a working "vacation" to Venice, Italy might be the cure to their grief stricken estrangement. We are in the middle of the gothic Venice setting; complete with intentionally labyrinthine streets full of statues, churches, and gondolas pulling people to and fro. In this, John Baxter's architectural assignment is to restore a 16th Century church, probably no coincidence if you see the cathartic message there alone.

However, fate intervenes, as the couple encounter two elderly sisters in a cafe, one of which is a self-proclaimed psychic. The blind woman informs Laura that she sees their dead child and Laura has no problem believing it as she is given specific evidence. Laura literally passes out, and is hospitalized, as she reveals to John what the blind woman told her about their deceased daughter. John on the otherhand is a bit more skeptical about the whole situation. The film alludes to the fact that John too is psychic having already had a premonition about his daughter's drowning.

The two sisters' message to John via Laura is to simply to leave Venice. This should have some resonance with the couple as they discover a serial killer is loose. At some point in the film, the couple share a highly explicit and erotic sex scene. Having coincidentally just watched "Lust, Caution" (The R-rated version) just a day before, I was amazed at what they got away with in this film. This completely took me by surprise. Anyway, John consults some help from the Bishop of the church he's helping to rebuild, as he sees a young girl running through the streets with a red rain slicker. It's only when two foreboding circumstances come about that John is prepared to heed the psychic's warning. One, has a near deadly accident on the scaffolding inside the church, the other is an accident back home with their son, to which Laura goes to tend to the matter. However, John sees Laura has returned without notice on a nearby funeral gondola with the two sisters onboard. He quickly chases after her, but catches her to no avail.

He believes something is wrong as Laura has not contacted him, and even goes so far to suspect something sinister from the elderly sisters. Going to the local police to have them investigated, it is only at the point of finding them that John gets a call from home from his wife that their son is alright and she's coming back. However, John confronts the sisters and apologizes for his hasty suspicion of them, until the blind sister again warns that he is still in danger. That he is.

Upon my initial viewing, "Don't Look Now" felt like a Hollywood cash-in ripoff of the "Rosemary's Baby" and "Excorcist" ilk being produced at the time. Then my attitude changed, as it seemed to resonate with me. I kept thinking about it, and it felt kinda Hitchcockian with a Polanski-like vision, and I wasn't sure why. Then I found out it was based on a story by British author Daphne Du Maurier. This name is not a marquee name by any means, but I looked into her and discovered this woman had a huge influence upon Hitchcock, so much to the point three of his films are based on her works! The fact of the matter is, this film deserves all the accolades it gets because of its adult approach to the horror genre.