Don’t Look Now

Don’t Look Now is a weirdly captivating creep-show of a movie: dark, vaguely Gothic, crudely energetic, occasionally ridiculous—in short, it resembles a lot of other films directed by Nicolas Roeg in the ’70s (Performance, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing). This one’s about an artistic couple, living (inexplicably) in a huge house on a huge estate, whose daughter drowns in a nearby pond; the couple takes solace in Venice, where he has a job restoring an old church; she meets two old sisters, one of whom—the blind one—sees the spirit of the daughter, and many other hobgoblins, too; meanwhile, it turns out that the husband has a bit of a sixth sense as well; trouble, chaos, and the cruel hand of fate ensue.

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are all in as the grieving couple: fully engaging, alluringly attractive, and hinting at more complex depths to their characters than the script ever does. They also frolic with convincing tenderness and passion in what may be the longest, most erotic sex scene ever to feature two Hollywood movie stars. All the acting is persuasive, except for the little girl and her brother, at the beginning, who look as if they’re waiting for their cues. Richmond, Roeg’s frequent D.P., films Venice as you (or at least I) have never seen it: grim, foreboding, nearly empty on the brink of winter—the gray flipside of the otherworldly carnival that it often evokes. The colors are deliberately muted, the better to bring out the blazing reds when they appear as the prelude to disaster: blood, spilled printer’s ink, the occasional hat and schoolbook, the red raincoat worn by the daughter at the beginning and by another diminutive creature near the end. It’s not eye candy, nor is it meant to be.

In any case, Criterion Collection captures the effects to a T. Earlier DVDs, by Warner Bros. and Paramount, were speckled with artifacts and color-coding problems. Not this one: It’s been a while since I saw this in a theater, but my memory tells me Criterion gets the goods. The sound, mastered from the original 35mm audio track, is also crisp, clear, and dynamic; the music plays a moody part in this film, and the disc gets it right. The extra features are, alas, among the studio’s drabbest: Except for interesting, delightful reminiscences by Sutherland and Christie, they consist mainly of one cast or crew member after another, going on about how awesome the others were.

Studio: Criterion Collection, 1973
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: Linear PCM 1.0
Length: 110 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason