Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: The Criterion Edition of 'Don’t Look Now'

No one would ever label Nicholas Roeg a genre filmmaker, but he always manages to sneak a bit of horror into his films, whether it’s the nightmarish decadence of Performance (co-directed with Donald Cammell), the demented obsessions of Bad Timing, or the shocking, out-of-left-field violence of Eureka. Among the few true horror films Roeg directed (he’d been cinematographer on Roger Corman’s genre masterpiece, The Masque of the Red Death) is his adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. Yet as disturbing, violent, and supernatural as the film is, Rogue still isn’t content to play on a single generic field. At heart, Don’t Look Now is a family drama about a couple’s grief following the death of their child. The horrific elements of the film always carry the weight of that grief, making it incredibly sad even when playing with conventional horror elements.

All that being said, the less said about this sad, and surprising film to those who’ve yet to see it the better (I get more into plot in the film’s entry on my 150 Essential Horror Movies list), but rest assured that Don’t Look Now is the most artful and dramatic true horror film of the seventies. So who better to bring it to blu-ray than the Criterion Collection? Based on how above-and-beyond the company has gone with its new blu-ray, I guess the answer is “no one.” The film looks excellent, the new 4k digital restoration respecting its misty aesthetic while delivering the sporadic blasts of red with Technicolor punch. Because of the films intentionally soft look, this is not the kind of restoration that will stun viewers, but it is completely correct. 

There are also more than three hours of supplements (only about an hour of which is spent discussing the film’s too-famous-for-its-own-good sex scene). The major new one is “Something Interesting”, a 30-minute assemblage of recent interviews with stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, co-screenwriter Allan Scott, and cinematographer Anthony Richmond. No disrespect to the guys behind the camera, but Christie and Sutherland are the ones who really fascinate in this featurette, discussing their very different reservations about making the movie, and Sutherland discussing the terrifying circumstances of the broken-gantry scene and hopefully demystifying that sex scene once and for all with a hilarious recollection of its filming.

There is also a 43-minute conversation with Graeme Clifford, whose editing is as integral to the film’s disorienting brilliance as Roeg’s direction or the stars’ performances. He reveals that he went so far as to alter the script in the cutting room. An 18-minute love letter to Roeg from Steven Soderberg and Danny Boyle is full of insights (particularly from Boyle, who convincingly compares the director to Pablo Picasso and David Lynch) and confessions about which scenes from their own movies they pinched from the master. As for him, Roeg gets his due spotlight in a 47-minute Q&A from 2003 and a 19-minute documentary on Don’t Look Now from Blue Underground’s DVD released the previous year. Unfortunately, Roeg has a tendency to reveal too much about his intentions for his films. I prefer it when filmmakers trust their viewers to decode their work. Another Blue Underground leftover, an interview with Italian pop-singer turned film-score composer Pino Donaggio, rounds out the definitive presentation of one of seventies cinema’s definitive films.

Get the Criterion Edition of Don’t Look Now on Amazon.com here:

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