Sunday, October 5, 2008

DON'T LOOK NOW (Nicolas Roeg, 1973, UK) Nicolas Roeg warns the audience: don’t look now…but we can’t turn away. He layers the film in an eerie otherworldly quality with precise editing patterns that shock the viewer’s expectations punctuated by a psychologically aberrant score. Haunting precognitive visions and desperate flashbacks create a sum total of fear and isolation, a malignant undertow whose dark currents slither through the waterways of Venice. Roeg films the characters in dark alleyways, the ancient city’s labyrinthine passageways and canals indicative of their own emotional journey. John’s work in Venice is to painstakingly restore the mosaic of an ancient Church, to restore a once beautiful image to its former glory. This heartbreaking metaphor is apparent as he and Laura try to repair their broken marriage after the dreadful loss of their young daughter Christine. John and Laura are drowning in an unspoken malaise and the tension between them soon becomes ominous: Laura meets two sisters who claim to see their daughter’s spirit. John suspects the two elderly ladies are scam artists. He scolds his wife, shouting that Christine is Dead! Dead! Dead!…as if trying to convince himself, to deny his own denial of the awful truth. Even their lovemaking is routine, a desperate copulation that brings them physically closer, that satisfies their instinctual human desires yet still seems distant: Roeg jump cuts to mundane activities while they fuck, as if their minds are already wandering and unable to merge during this once deeply emotional union. The Pino Dinaggio score creates a gentle atmosphere of profound love between John and Laura, an empathetic link as these two people try to work out their marriage. Other times, it echoes through the crumbling city like tiny footsteps, a ghostly reminder that death stalks Venice. Throughout the film, John sees a child in a bright red coat walk the darkened streets: the same type of slicker that Christine was wearing when she drowned. He is troubled by this vision, unsure whether it’s a frightened child or maybe…just maybe the old women were right, the spirit of his little girl is trying to communicate. John’s question is violently answered; his guilt expunged in a bright red torrent. (A)

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