Don’t Look Now (1973)

Dont look Now movieposter

Nothing is what it seems. Grieving over the accidental death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams), John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) leave their young son Johnny in an English boarding school and head to Venice where John’s been commissioned to restore a church. There Laura meets two ageing sisters (Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania) who claim to be in touch with Christine’s spirit. Laura takes them seriously, but John scoffs until he himself catches a glimpse of what looks like Christine running through the streets of Venice. Unbeknownst to himself, he has precognitive abilities (which might even be figured in the book he’s written, Beyond the Fragile Geometry of Space) and the figure of local Bishop Barrigo (Massimo Serato) seems to be a harbinger of doom rather than a portent of hope.  Meanwhile, another body is fished out of the canal with a serial killer on the prowl …  Director Nicolas Roeg made one masterpiece after another in the early 1970s and this enjoyed a scandalous reputation because of the notorious sex scene between Christie and Sutherland which was edited along the lines of a film that Roeg had photographed for Richard Lester, Petulia, some years earlier. The clever cross-cutting with the post-coital scene of the couple dressing to go out for dinner persuaded people that they had watched something forbidden. That aside, the adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s short story by Allan Scott and Chris Bryant is a clever mix of horror, mystery, enigmatic serial killer thriller and a meditation on grief. All of that is meshed within a repetitive visual matrix of the colour red, broken glass and water. None of that would matter were it not for the intensely felt characterisation of a couple in mourning, with Christie’s satisfaction at her dead daughter’s supposed happiness opposed to Sutherland’s desire to shake off the image of the child’s shiny red mackintosh – the very thing that leads him to his terrible fate. Some of the editing is downright disturbing – particularly a cut to the old ladies busting a gut laughing whilst holding photographs, apparently of their own family members. John’s misunderstanding of his visions coupled with the literal crossed telephone line from England creates a cacophony of dread, with Pino Donaggio’s score and Anthony Richmond’s limpid shots of Venice in winter compounding the tender horror constructed as elegiac mosaic by editor Graeme Clifford. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius? Probably. I couldn’t possibly comment.  I never minded being lost in Venice.

Advertisements

Happy 80th Birthday Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)!

Snow White 1937.png

Walt Disney’s extraordinary feature animation debut premiered eighty years ago today. Adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairytale, it is the benchmark for all animated films and remains a firm favourite. One of the most beautiful films ever made, it was my first film at a cinema on one of its many re-releases over the years. What a thrilling introduction to the wonderful world of Disney. Happy Birthday!

Boot Hill (1969)

Boot Hill poster

Aka Trinity Rides Again. Before Han and Chewie … there was Terence Hill and his bear of a companion, Bud Spencer, who died last month. For those not in the know, they made a series of spaghetti westerns under the ‘Trinity’ moniker. This is the only western I know that’s pretty much set at a circus and is the last of the preceding trilogy, God Forgives … I Don’t and Ace High, coming before it. It was renamed on re-release to cash in  on the success of the Trinity trilogy. Hill is Cat Stevens (I know … I know!) who’s been ambushed by a gang but hides away in a circus wagon. He’s helped by Thomas (Woody Strode) who wants him as bait to lure the gang into a trap. They’re led by Victor Buono, that oozing obese musical maestro from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.  Hutch (Spencer) lives in a shack with a mute called Baby Doll and they agree to help get Cat’s claim deed back. A big pantomime of the events is re-enacted in the big top, and everyone, even the dwarves and dancers, takes part in a massive shoot-out and the gang is wiped out. If only we all had such good friends. Cat and Hutch ride off to make the Trilogy films. Written and directed by Giuseppe Colizzi who died shockingly young in 1978.