Don’t Look Now Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
A young girl, Christine (Sharon Williams), plays outside by herself. Her parents sit inside, her mother reading by the fire and her father flipping through photographs. Her brother runs over a piece of glass with his bike, the sound of which seems to rip through her father’s ears. He suspects something is wrong and darts outside to find Christine has drowned in the lake.
Time passes and the parents, John (Donald Sutherland, Alan J. Pakula’s KLUTE) and Laura (Julie Christie, whose previous credit was in Robert Altman’s MCCABE & MRS. MILLER, which earned her an Oscar nomination), have moved to Venice for John’s work, which sees him doing restoration work on an old church. It’s that there a strange, almost supernatural, series of events occur: while out to lunch one day, a blind psychic (Hilary Mason, who played Mrs. Nickleby in the 1977 miniseries NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and would later appear in Stuart Gordon’s DOLLS) tells Laura that she can see her daughter; while on the job one day, John nearly falls from scaffolding, as if it was forcing him off; while out for a stroll, he glimpses a short figure in a red raincoat, just like Christine wore when she died.
As the story progresses and as John becomes obsessed with the figure in the raincoat and Laura becomes more acquainted with the psychic, the film becomes less about loss and more about the obsession with closure. What begins as a drama becomes a steadily unsettling psychological thriller.
DON’T LOOK NOW leads the viewer through labyrinthine alleys, constantly reminding them of the horrible occurrence that opened the film and foreshadowing the terror that is undoubtedly to come. When wine spills, it looks like the rain that fell before Christine drowned. A young boy plays with a ball identical to Christine’s. The color red is prominent as a fitting, if blunt, nod to death. The city of Venice, and so also the Baxter’s, are surrounded by water. This heavy symbolism and imagery that bathes the film lend to an often surreal tone.
DON’T LOOK NOW is adapted from the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, whose Rebecca and a handful of others were brought to the screen by Alfred Hitchcock. The director, Nicolas Roeg (1970’s PERFORMANCE, 1971’s WALKABOUT), brings a bold and sometimes raw style to the story that greatly enhances the film, allowing it to play with the viewer’s mind and tease that they are being prepared for that which can’t be prepared for. Two of the more effective elements working for the film are the editing (by Graeme Clifford, who would also cut Roeg’s THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH) and score (by Pino Donaggio, who would go on to score such Brian DePalma films as CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and BLOW OUT).
DON’T LOOK NOW is one of the most perfect thrillers, on par with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s LES DIABOLIQUE (1955) and Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM (1960), where the viewer cannot imagine how far the director will take them and they’re cautious to find out.
DON’T LOOK NOW was nominated for seven BAFTAs, including Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actor and Best Actress.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “Approved by director Nicolas Roeg, this new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative at Deluxe Digital London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.”
DON’T LOOK NOW looks quite nice in high-definition, with strong details, accurate colors and good stability.
Audio: English Mono. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”
Dialogue is clean and Pino Donaggio’s score comes through without flaw.
DON’T LOOK NOW, Looking Back (19:25) features interviews with director Nicolas Roeg, who discusses the source story and Daphne Du Maurier’s response, cinematographer Anthony Richmond, who touches on the imagery, and editor Graeme Clifford, who reflects on his techniques.
Death in Venice (17:30): Composer Pino Donaggio discusses his contributions to DON’T LOOK NOW.
Something Interesting (29:42) collects recent interviews with co-screenwriter Allan Scott, cinematographer Richmond and actors Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, who reminisce about the making of DON’T LOOK NOW.
Nicolas Roeg: The Enigma of Film (14:20): Directors Danny Boyle and Steven Soderbergh discuss Roeg, DON’T LOOK NOW and how the film influenced their own work.
Graeme Clifford and Bobbie O’Steen (43:05): Historian and writer O’Steen sits down with editor Clifford to thoroughly dissect the style of DON’T LOOK NOW.
Nicolas Roeg at Ciné Lumière (47:34): This 2003 Q&A with Roeg was recorded in London. In it, Roeg shares his thoughts on dialogue, rehearsing, his clashes with producers and more.
Also included with this Blu-ray release is an essay by film critic David Thompson.