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Don’t Look Now: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Don’t Look Now: Criterion Collection

April 13, 2015

Director: Nicolas Roeg,
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania, Renato Serato, Giorgio Trestini, Leopoldo Trieste, David Tree, Ann Rye,

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DVD Review

Adapted from the short story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now (1973) took a familiar genre and depicted it in an unusual way, employing several flashbacks and flashforwards as director Nicolas Roeg examined the psychological effects of grief and notions of precognition in a way that was considered quite innovative at the time. The film caused quite a stir upon its release for the depiction of a very graphic sex scene between its two lead actors – Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland – but has since been recognized as a cinematic masterpiece.

In a truly unsettling sequence, Roeg cuts between John and Laura Baxter (Sutherland and Christie) having a relaxing Sunday afternoon at home while their children play outside. As John observes a slide of a church he’s helping restore, he spots someone that looks like his daughter in the photograph as blood oozes across the image. At that moment, his young daughter accidentally drowns in a nearby pond. Sensing something is wrong, John goes outside and rushes to save his child but it is in vain.

While eating at a restaurant one day, Laura encounters two sisters in the washroom. One of them is blind and claims to be a psychic. She tells Laura that she’s seen her daughter and that she’s happy, which understandably unnerves her. The rest of the film explores John and Laura coming to terms with their feelings of loss and how they deal with it. Roeg envelopes it all in an understatedly sinister way as the supernatural plays a significant part.

Set in Venice, Roeg uses the city’s distinctive look effectively as the classic architecture and old world vibe adds to the film’s off-kilter moodiness. Normally depicted as a beautiful and exotic locale, Roeg gives Venice a menacing atmosphere as John and Laura encounter all sorts of unusual experiences.

Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland deliver grounded, nuanced performances and are quite believable as a married couple. They achieve this by a familiarity that is apparent between John and Laura. Sutherland plays John as a rational man who deals with grief by internalizing it while Christie plays Laura as more emotional and open to the unknown. They are a loving couple dealing with the unimaginable – the death of a child.

Don’t Look Now is a powerful meditation on loss and how the mind attempts to deal with such trauma. Everyone has their own way of coping and Roeg plays with the perception of his protagonists in increasingly nightmarish ways. Are they going crazy from grief? Are they at the mercy of supernatural forces beyond their comprehension? Roeg offers no easy answers and it is this ambiguity that makes the film such a fascinating cinematic enigma.

Special Features:

The Criterion Collection’s Blu-Ray transfer faithfully preserves the filmic look of Don’t Look Now with natural colors and a print free of any blemishes. Roeg’s film has never looked better.

There is theatrical trailer.

Don’t Look Now, Looking Back” is a retrospective featurette done in 2002 and features Roeg talking about the production, director of photography Anthony Richmond explaining how certain scenes were shot, including the infamous sex scene, and editor Graeme Clifford talking about the innovative editing.

“Death in Venice” is an interview with composer Pino Donaggio who talks about meeting Roeg and the genesis of the soundtrack.

“Something Interesting” features interviews with actors Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, Richmond and co-screenwriter Allan Scott as they offer recollections of Roeg’s working methods and their impressions of the film.

“Nicolas Roeg: The Enigma of Film” features filmmakers Danny Boyle and Steven Soderbergh analyzing Roeg’s distinctive style and how groundbreaking it was at the time. They are smart and eloquent on this engaging extra.

There is also a conversation between writer and historian Bobbie O’Steen and Clifford. They go into great detail about the pacing and editing of Don’t Look Now. This extra sheds light on the power of editing to manipulate how we perceive events depicted on film.

Finally, there is “Nicolas Roeg at Cine Lumiere,” an archival Q&A with the director done after a 2003 screening of the film.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 96%

Website: http://www.criterion.com/films/27928-don-t-look-now

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