Retro Review: DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

How did the 1973 British thriller fair? – Bleeding Dead

In DON’T LOOK NOW Laura and John Baxter have tragically lost their daughter when she accidentally drowned near their family home. Now in Italy on business for John’s work the couple still grieves over her death, is it has changed almost everything about them. That is until one day when Laura meets two women in a restaurant and one of them, a blind lady who claims she has psychic powers, comforts Laura when she tells her that she’s seen her daughter and her daughter wishes for her parents to move past her death. When Laura returns to the table with her husband he sees a different woman, the woman he knew before Christine drowned. After a fainting incident at the restaurant the couple return to their hotel where they have a very intimate sex scene, confirming that Laura’s attitude has changed entirely. The problems really only start when Laura returns to the woman and she warns Laura that John is in danger while in Italy and must leave. But with John skeptic, despite Laura’s betterment, he refuses to leave and refuses to believe anything the woman has to say. Especially when the woman suggest that John may posses psychic powers of his own.

Viewers be warned DON’T LOOK NOW is a taunting thriller that takes you through a cautious two hour pace before delivering its only true shock and scare moment. It’s a character heavy film in that not much occurs but the depth and understanding to Laura and John’s loss. Essentially that is all the film is really about, a mourning couple who becomes lightly touched by the supernatural at the effect of their daughter’s death. It’s definitely a film study where there’s an array of themes and motifs, almost as much as novel, where there’s less of action and more of reaction. Not to mistake that there isn’t a plot, as there is but don’t expect a chase scene or much action beyond someone almost falling. The characters directions in the film are not driven by the motions around them but rather by themselves and where they feel to go. Basically the film is dealt in harsh emotions; despair, loss of religion, loss of one’s self are among the few that fill the heart of the production.

Julie Christie is aesthetic in the film as Laura, a women who’s struggling to regain her full self after her daughter’s drowning. She’s convincing, likable, and gorgeous in the film’s 1970’s backdrop. And Donald Sutherland is the perfect counter as the father who holds his feelings in and buries himself in his impressive work. As I’ve said my favorite films and stories are those that are less driven by plot and more by characters as you tend to remember them better, and I soon won’t forget Laura and John. Director Nicolas Roeg and his Director of Photography Anthony Richmond work masterfully in capturing the beautiful scenery of Italy. Having most of the film set within the streets of Venice and on the canal place the viewers in a very real setting that enhances the thin plot. The restoration of the church and the old crumbled buildings are of a broken city held by age. Of course the twist of the film is the moment to shine with the use of it’s motif color red. The flashes of past moments in the film create a horrifying and stunning moment at the climax as it acts as the final heartbeat, beating in and out of memories. An unexpected moment that is delivered with care and a delicacy that not only memorize the viewer but drops their stomach as well.

There’s inevitable controversy in this classic British thriller with its cold and stabbing ending and of course its infamous sex scene. References to Last Tango In Paris have been made to describe how explicit and graphic the scene is. However, it’s filmed beautifully and done on a tasteful level despite the realism between the actors. And unlike most in this genre it progresses the characters forward and speaks on a larger level of Laura’s reaction to the woman’s sighting of her daughter. More or less it helps develop her character further. DON’T LOOK NOW is an intended deep psychological thriller that isn’t for a light viewing. It’s rough and sentimental but an effective emotional portrait of losing a child. If your watching for a blood bath or need the story to get to the point within the first twenty minutes your looking at the wrong film. If you can be patient and watch with ease you might like it.

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