August 7, 2003

Water, Water Everywhere


Beware of the water. And Venice. And dwarves. And little red macs. These are important lessons PCC learned after watching Nicolas Roeg's beautiful, yet haunting, 1973 film, Don't Look Now. Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as John and Laura Baxter, Roeg's film chronicles the couple's new life in Venice following the accidental drowning of their little girl, Christine back in England. John buries himself, almost literally, in work restoring an old Venetian church, while Laura tries to adjust to life without her child.

After meeting two strange British sisters in a restaurant, one of whom informs Laura that she has 'seen' Christine, despite her blindness, Laura emerges almost a new woman. She is cheerful, strangely calmed by the pyschic's vision. John, on the other hand, is skeptical and tries to convince his wife that Christine is gone. Depending on whom you belive, the couple either spirals further into madness or begins to shake loose from its grips. Since it would be a crime to reveal the ending, PCC urges you not to get discouraged by the deliberately paced plot and stick around for the shocking final scene.

Let's get the sex scene out of the way first. Please refer to CCC's earlier entry on Belle du Jour for an interesting commentary on celebrity nudity and the like. It's true, the love scene between Sutherland and Christie is amazingly realisitc, with full nudity for both. But what makes it fascinating to watch is that it doesn't feel extraneous, like many modern-day scenes of hoppping in the sack. There is an element of fear that is evident as their hands move up and down each other's body, holding on as if the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate. This isn't sex for sex's sake: it's survival and connection and safety in contact.

Apart from the truly creepy plot, adapted from a Daphne Du Maurier (the literary source of several Hitchcook films, including Rebecca) story, the combination of Anthony Richmond's cinematography and Graeme Clifford's editing is a story in and of itself. The repeated use of water, from the pond where Christine drowns to wine dripping off the table after Laura faints to the Venetian canals themselves, is gorgeous. The audience never feels hit over the head with the imagery; it isn't merely added to remind us that 'hey, remember, the little girl drowned!' The dripping and pooling and flowing of the various liquids adds another layer to already dream-like quality of the film.


Finally, a note on the acting. Always a fan of Donald Sutherland (though he seems to lose his cinematic children to water accidents a bit too often for comfort- remember Ordinary People?), PCC was thoroughly impressed by his performance as a grieving parent. There's something in his eyes that can signify more pain than sobbing ever could. A new member to the Julie Christie fan club, PCC wonders why she never joined before. The woman is both subtly talented and not so subtly gorgeous. We completely buy the notion that she has really lost a child and is trying desperately to hang on to her rapidly vanishing husband. And as an acting pair, Christie and Sutherland have the audience utterly convinced that they really are married, they are that compatible and seemingly effortless together.

Posted by jordan at August 7, 2003 8:12 PM