Classic Movie Of The Week 2017

Classic Movie Of The Week: Don’t Look Now (1973)


Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania

Director: Nicolas Roeg

John (Sutherland) and Laura (Christie) Baxter are struggling to deal with the accidental death of their young daughter, and take up restoration work in Venice, Italy, to try to move on. Laura seems to be unable to cope very well until two older ladies give her a psychic message from beyond the grave. Though this message helps Laura to start to heal, more words from beyond soon follow that try to warn them that something very bad is coming.

Shot in Venice, the film is often overcast and grey, which adds to the feeling of sadness, a lack of brightness. It’s not gloomy, but moody perhaps. The locations are quite beautiful, there’s something about the old architecture of the city, with it’s canals, bridges and little lanes, that feels more ghostly and mysterious than another city might. With the figure of the red coated girl fluttering through, she pops, standing out in her swift, small stature. A bright figure among the darker greys and browns.

It’s also an interesting choice of city, since the canals are such a prominent part of life there, an odd place to retreat to when your daughter has died of drowning. It adds a level of the macabre.

But the larger focus is on the couple. I always find it odd to see Donald Sutherland in the role of father or lover, not because he can’t play that role well, but because my first exposure to him has always been as a villain. I think it’s those eyebrows. Here he is quite a sympathetic creature, a loving father and a passionate husband, trying to save his wife from herself, and living with his own grief. Julie Christie is so beautiful in this film. I haven’t seen a great deal of her films til this year, and I really like her work. She’s beautiful and emotive, drawing you into her inner world. She struggles in a different way than her husband to come to terms with her feelings, not able to come out of the darker stages of grieving. It’s a really well realised film when it comes to the emotional life of the couple and their struggle with grief.

But at heart, it is a supernatural horror. The film functions more as a tense thriller than a jump scare fest, building on each little clue or odd event to create a mystery and eeriness that gets under your skin. The old ladies who want to help Laura and her husband are both delightful, kind and disconcerting somehow. They seem friendly, but their otherworldly aspect makes you wonder if they’re not also a bit sinister. What is their real intention?

John, on the other hand, finds himself seeing things that don’t entirely make sense, his daughter disappearing around corners, his wife when she isn’t there, and also barely escaping little accidents. Can he figure out what’s really going on before it’s too late?

I really enjoyed this film, it’s not one that will ever date, really, and the twist in the end feels really uncomfortable, weird and shocking. I didn’t know before watching it that it’s based on a Daphne Du Maurier story, and it makes a lot of sense. It has all the hallmarks of her compassionate and creepy story style. Wonderful.

See It If: you like spooky stories, horror with a little psychological aspect, and a thrilling strangeness. It’s a wonderful, eery film.

11 thoughts on “Classic Movie Of The Week: Don’t Look Now (1973)”

  1. This movie is pretty infamous, as well, for the quite graphic sex scene between Christie and Southerland. He was quite the ladies man back then and I believe that he and Christie were together for at least a while. I’m also glad that you liked my review about “Battle of the Sexes” that I just posted on my blog. Given that was also from the same year when “Don’t Look Now” was released, 1973, my guess is that you and I are of a same age.

    One other thought I had about “Don’t Look Now”. My wife and I visited Venice a few years ago. I often will look up sites of movies I enjoyed when I visit the locations where movies were filmed. I definitely did that while in Rome to find the locations of “Angels & Demons”. I have pictures from that visit on my blog. I didn’t think to try and do that specifically for “Don’t Look Now” while in Venice, but I’m sure that we visited many of the locations. We may even have walked across a few of the bridges from the movie without knowing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard they had an affair too. I look at him now and think, how was he such a ladies man? Ha ha! He does have a certain charm, but he doesn’t have that Redford or Newman type good looks.
      I like movie and location sites too, it’s very interesting. I’m not sure I would recognise the sites in Venice, but you never know. They capture the mood of that city really well, but I don’t remember exact locations.


  2. One can never forget the old small lady in that red mac coat. I certainly got a little scarred from it at the time I had viewed it, but that is what is odddly alluring. It builds up the ‘right’ amount of pyschological terror that sometimes feels like you have stepped into the world of Twin Peaks. one you can never look back from..a wonderful review to read upon Hermione.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That ending though…just thinking about it gives me chills all over. One of the creepiest endings that I have ever seen for a film, next to Invasion of the Body Snatchers which coincidentally also starred Sutherland 😊 Ah, these classic movie reviews are always great to read! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this movie! Nicolas Roeg at his best: great cinematography. The sex scene is one the most effective I’ve ever seen, not what you expect necessarily with Donald Sutherland! But it’s because of the way it’s shot. Both of the leads are fantastic, as you say. And at the same time, really sad and moving, but also utterly terrifying. A true classic.

    Liked by 1 person

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