Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Look Now: Yeah I'm Talking to You, You Dirty Chamber Maid.

I believe this is my third attempt at watching and trying to appreciate Don't Look Now, and believe it or not I have accomplished an ultimate and profound appreciation. Why after three times you ask? Because the levels of understanding and meaning in this film are extremely deep and layered. Every picture, every moment is important- and is in someway related to the overall meaning of the film. It's tiring, exciting and frustrating- but when you finally see something that makes you gasp with realization, it's all worth it.

This movie features Julie Christie and the Donald. The original "The Donald" that is.

What a guy.

So the movie opens with a tragic occurrence involving the drowning of the Baxter's daughter, Christine. Following this- the Baxter's relocate to Venice where The Donald is renovating some churches. Here they are met by a blind psychic woman who claims that Christine is with them and warns them that they should leave. Meanwhile The Donald is plagued by visions of a small figure running through Venice wearing a similar coat to Christine's. Not to mention a bizarre case of murders- drowned victims nonetheless are flooding the city. What can this all mean? Believe me, it's not as easy as it sounds.

I love the immediate mood this movie sets for us. The rain in the very beginning is amazing- as is the foreshadowing of the ruined photograph- the seemingly heaviness of the pond coinciding with the eventual weight that gets put on the Baxter's. Everything in that first scene is setting you up perfectly for the rest of the movie. What also works well are the oppositions- the blind woman is the one who can "see"- while The Donald apparently also gifted with the 2nd sight is in a sense "blind" to his visions and feelings. The color of red is prominent and acts as a constant warning and remembrance at the same time- which basically is the ultimate downfall of The Donald- is inability to move on and embrace a future of happiness.

During my first two viewings of the movie I found my attention wandering for some reason. With this movie I think it demands repeat viewings for this very reason. The ending makes you look at the movie in a whole other light and will keep your head spinning for a few more viewings. There are many different ways that you can read into the things going on in this movie- but for this review's purpose I'd like to keep things relatively simple.

The ending is what most refer to when recounting this movie- and while it is surprising and very creepy- it's also so perfectly depressing and eye opening. The ultimate revelation or sight isn't accomplished until it is too late. If you haven't figured it out by now- this movie is all kinds of deep. The imagery is beautiful, the blood is my favorite kind of paint red, and the levels that the movie works on are endless. Horror movie? Kind of. There aren't gallons of blood- scares around every corner or ridiculous plot twists. There is a gratuitous sex scene though that was seconds away from becoming a classy 70s porn so I guess that can satisfy the boobie hounds. At the center of the movie is the idea of grief and loss. How we choose to deal with the grief is outwardly apparent with how we live our everyday lives. Some of us will never be able to let go- while others choose to embrace the happiness and the thought that things will eventually get better.

So if you are willing to really be challenged by a movie, try this one. Sure it may take a couple of tries but the enlightenment may be well worth it. Plus there is a funny scene where Donald is caught naked by the maid...which reminds me that it's probably a good idea to never sit on any chairs in Donald Sutherland's home. Just saying.

This Bravo clip kind of has a giant spoiler in it, so just move on to the trailer if you want to be seriously thrilled by the ending.

Also here is an incredible and completely telling quote that I just discovered and am now obsessed with. It's the blind woman talking about her and her sister's differing views on Venice. Again so fitting with the theme of opposition and relates so well to how the Baxter's have such different ways of viewing and dealing with Christine's death.

"One of the things I love about Venice is that it's so safe for me to walk. The sound changes you see, as you come to a canal- and the echoes in the walls are so clear. My sister hates it. She's says it's like a city in aspic- left over from a dinner party, and all the guests are dead and gone. It frightens her. Too many shadows."


Dod said...

Another fine review! And this is yet another classic horror film I have not seen. It's like The Changeling: I know its place, and want to see it but always seem to miss it. I gotta get on the ball.

Incidentally, they do a quick homage to this movie in the wonderful British show "Spaced," with a small figure running by in a red coat.

Scare Sarah said...

Great review!

It's been so long since I saw this film that all I seem to remember is the said gratuitous sex scene! It is well overdue another watch.

Franco Macabro said...

Hi, Im a new reader of your blog, so this is my first comment, great blog you got by the way, love blogs that dedicate themselves entirely to horror!

I do a bit of everything, but mostly horror and sci-fi.

So on to Dont Look Now, I like the slow burner style that this movie has. Which is probably why it took you three times to get to finish it. It has no rush to get underneath your skin...but eventually it does!

Theres lots of foreboding, ominous moments. And as you mention, the ending is spectacular in deed. It really grabs you.

That sex scene did seem to last forever, but its also very genuine, it did not feel fake or forced like it tends to happen in some movies.

Andre said...

Thanks for reading! Very true about the sex scene- I read that the day they filmed this was the first day that Julie Christie and the Donald had met! Pretty wild.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to see this as well. Need to remedy it, ASAP.

Great review.

The Igloo Keeper said...

There's a very enlightening discussion on this film over at The Classic Horror Film Board.

It contains this gem HUGE SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER LOOK AWAY that made a huge difference to my appreciation of it:

"What we should realize at the end, and what makes sense of the "arty" way the film is presented, is that it's actually Sutherland who is the genuine psychic, and he pays the price of not taking heed of the various warning signs he has received -- which not even we, on first viewing, can interpret as warning signs. The movie begins to make tremendous sense on subsequent viewings."