Donald Sutherland in Don’t Look Now (Photo: Paramount)
DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)
★★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Nicolas Roeg
STARS Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland
It’s rare when a filmmaker helms one genuine masterpiece in his lifetime, let alone two (and consecutively!), yet that was the case when Nicolas Roeg followed 1971’s Walkabout with another motion picture equally as brilliant.
Based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the wordsmith whose works also fueled the Hitchcock classics Rebecca and The Birds, 1973’s Don’t Look Now stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as Laura and John Baxter, a happily married couple who, reeling from the death of their daughter Christine, have temporarily settled in Venice so that John can assist in restoring an old church. Laura continues to drown in grief until she meets a pair of sisters (Hilary Mason and Clelia Matania), one of whom claims to be a psychic and informs her that Christine is happy in the afterlife but John is in danger. John believes it’s all nonsense, even though he himself is blessed/cursed with a second sight he chooses to dismiss. But how to explain the strange visions he sees around him, including fleeting glimpses of a child wearing the same red raincoat donned by Christine when she died?
The exquisite visual presentation — accentuated by Anthony Richmond’s inspired lensing and Graeme Clifford’s astute editing — allows this artistic endeavor to function as a mood piece, yet it’s much more than that, thanks to its compelling plotline and heavy use of meaningful symbolism (with water, broken glass and the color red all receiving particularly vigorous workouts).
A hit in its native England, Don’t Look Now is even more revered now: Separate polls by the British Film Institute and Time Out London have cited it as one of the 10 best British films ever made. No argument here.