In the 70’s, Donald Sutherland dealt with the loss of a child in disparate ways. In Ordinary People, it was extensive psychoanalysis. In the scorchingly frightening, methodical Don’t Look Now, it was gondola excursions in Europe. Like most Italian giallos from Dario Argento, the pigment red (like the signature raincoat that Christine, the deceased daughter wears) is a leitmotif of the film. A harbinger to the drowning is John Baxter (Sutherland) spilling wine over a slide of said daughter (which then resembles stained glass).
The sound design is juxtaposed to maximum angst with Laura’s (Julie Christie) high-pitched squeal seguing into a drill. The aura of the film is replete with cosmic coincidences and omens with doors swinging open from the gusty wind which results in a hereafter confession from an elderly woman about “seeing” the posthumous progeny. A quintessential horror movie would wallow in the misery but the psychic claims that she was laughing in the afterlife and sadness is only a transient temperament.
The fainting spell by Christie spurs a sightseeing tour in Venice which is gorgeously lensed. Of the two, Christie has a spiritual awakening whereas Sutherland is the calloused one who bemoans even sojourning into a church. It’s a polymathic examination of the grieving process where some people retreat to workaholic habits (John is not deterred with his restoration project), heathenish disbelief or wholehearted submission to faith.
The sex scene between Sutherland and Christie is rather infamous for reportedly being unsimulated. I can vouch for its unfeigned verisimilitude but it is also charged with tenderness and afterglow romanticism. The intercutting between the intercourse and the redressing afterwards was a innovative technique that skirted the censors but also poetically reinforces the character’s rhapsodic recollections of their eros. The serial-killer-on-the-loose storyline seems to be perpendicular but Roeg amplifies the hair-raising milieu with tilted angles and zooms of a furtive figure in a red raincoat dashing around the murder sites.
With the silhouetted shadows through the Roman corridors and clandestine happenings insinuate that Roeg is crafting a noir at times. The shattering-glass scene during John’s mosaic reassembly is breathlessly jarring and operatic. Whichever miscellaneous genres the film dabbles in, Don’t Look Now is an exquisitely jaw-dropping, rococo masterstroke that deserves its place on the mantle of audaciously moody classics. The conclusion will be forever etched in your memory bank.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5