Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What's Next On My Blog? Don't Look Now

Yes, I originally planned to give you a list of my favorite actors, but something came up! To one of my classes, I had to write a review of an old movie. I did so much work with it, but I had to cut it down to 500 words (unsuccessfully, but don't tell my teacher!), that I decided to post it on my blog instead. So we are here to discuss:



Don’t Look Now is originally the adaptation of a book, by the same title, made in 1973. This fact will be important, and I will come back to it later. It might be a bit of a spoiler, but the paper I handed in had the following title: "Don't Look Now? Don't look ever!"
The plot summary, in a nutshell, is that of a married couple (John and Laura) who have just lost their daughter in an accident. Because of a job, they spend time in Venice, where their past seems to haunt them, as John has visions of their daughter and Laura meets a pair of sisters, one of whom is psychic. The latter confesses to seeing their dead daughter. The husband has premonitions of his own, among them that of his own funeral, but not being able to accept these, he drives himself to his own death. He is killed by a serial killer loose in Venice, who wore a same kind of read coat like their deceased daughter.

Before I started working on my review, I decided to do a bit of research. I was mostly interested in other people’s reaction to the movie. They were either lovers or haters, only a couple could rightfully explain their hesitation in choosing one side or the other. One might be disappointed, but I am a hater as far as this movie goes...

It is important to know, that it is credited as ’horror-thriller’, but it is clearly a thriller. You must also know that there is an ambiguity to the whole movie, and if you don’t like plots that make you think, then you will not enjoy it.
My biggest problem was that I was not satisfied with the ending! John dies at the hand of this serial killer, but the killings are referred to a total of THREE times throughout the whole movie! I was convinced that these killings had no importance as far as the plot or the story of our couple is concerned. There was no real built up to it as it was very badly done. Honestly I was either expecting that John would be this killer (as there was indication for it) or that he would kill himself, not being able to understand his premonitions. To get how I felt, imagine that you are watching a two hour long crime with 10 characters (among them a detective), and you spend the whole movie wondering who the killer is going to be, when in the last ten minutes they introduce an 11th character who turns out to be the murderer... You'd be pretty pissed, wouldn't you? So you can guess why I was not satisfied at all with the ending, and if I don't like that, then I question the whole movie.

That said, I would like to go into detail about what was that I started questioning:
Many and many subplots didn't have an ending. I hate that. Also, the main characters didn't behave like real humans do. Let me explain with a couple of examples what I mean exactly.
After the loss of their daughter, they go to Venice, leaving their son behind. I know that the husband has to work, but their son is not mentioned again until the 53rd minute of the movie (out of 105!). I assume that (after asking my mom) you’d want to spend every second of the day with your only child after losing the other. I even came to the conclusion that perhaps that boy was just a friend of their daughters! And when he supposedly has an accident, Laura leaves immediately, of course, but when we discover that he is quite OK, she leaves him again. She spent a total amount of what, three hours with him? Is that normal? I get that he is in boarding school, but for fuck sake! Not only was she warned that Venice is dangerous for her husband, but she doesn't even want to spend a little bit more time with her son?
Another scene is the famous ’sex-scene’ that has received quite controversial comments over the years. After talking about their daughter's obituary, they end up making love. Not only it doesn't bring the plot forward, but by cutting back and forth between them making love and getting dressed, it gave me the impression that they were disgusted by what they just committed. In comparison to the amount of love and chemistry the two characters have shown, this scene completely disrupted the pace for me. Why? The plot of the story completely stops for FOUR MINUTES!
But the list goes on: another example is that of the two murders they hear about. Both time, the news of finding bodies in the water seems to cause them nuisance. Why? People usually are intrigued and curios at the site or news of a murder. These two characters for me had nothing or little to do with the natural behavior of two grieving parents. And oh dear God... Laura... at the end she is running around Venice, trying to find John. Now, if you are looking for someone in the dark, don't you usually shout their name? I've found myself yelling at the screen: "SAY HIS NAME! SAY HIS NAME!" He wasn't far away and he might have known that she was looking for him! And then she completely figures out which way to follow him... HOW? You didn't see where he went! Yes, there was an old man running after Little Red Riding Hood there, but how we would know that she understood him? Or that the one he was following was indeed John? There is no indication that he too was following someone! Also, she spoke Italian ONCE in the whole movie! Let me tell you that the movie is not enjoyable is you don't speak Italian, so do look for subtitles. But even that causes confusion, as that man was saying something about 'thief', which I assumed was directed to John, who tried to use someone else's boat to get to the little red fellow. Yet, when John closes himself and this red fellow inside a building (comments said church, but I'm not sure), he seems to be yelling of a creature sent by the devil... so he really was following the red fellow...?
And my favorite? This scene was the cherry on top of the cake! John calls up Laura while she is at home with their son. The two don't listen to a SINGLE word, the other one says. Did you ever have a conversation with someone where you just went on about your business while the other one tried to explain something? It made no sense! Your husband sounds worried as shit! Wouldn't you want to hear him out? You have been hanging around in a city with a serial killer and psychic blind ladies, for fuck sake, HEAR THE MAN OUT!
The only human like behavior was that of the grieving mother, who thought of these sisters as closure for her pains, while the stubborn male father could not bring himself to believing a blind woman, claiming to be psychic.

Having have ripped apart the main characters, let us discuss the other characters. Let's start with the priest who's church John is renovating. All throughout the movie he seems to be disgusted by the foreigner coming and being a genius in his church! Yet, he too senses when he is about to die. How? Why? There was no indication that he either cared nor, let's say, 'prayed' for him - what connection was there that would lead to him being able to guess his death? And then he gently goes back to sleep. Thank you for that, that scene was extremely useful plot-wise!
The second would be the police inspector. John goes to he police, believing that Laura was somehow abducted by those two sisters. The inspector starts to speculate that perhaps John is the killer they were looking for - his behavior resembled that of a rapist in heat, rather than a curious detective (in other words, subtlety wasn't his strong suit). And all meanwhile we had shots of the two sisters walking about in a park. Was the inspector seeing this? Why was that there?
And the two sisters? I can't really say anything about them. I found myself wondering about their past instead of the main character's future - and that's not good movie, that is not good. They were OK, but they were a subplot that was unnecessary: Laura never reached closure and John died just the same. Big help you guys were!

Oh, and Italians don't speak English. They do know (up in the North), but not in the 70's. I also was hesitant to understand why John, fluent in the beginning, seemed to have completely forgot he spoke Italian in the second half of the movie. The most truthful scene was when he met with two ladies, owners of a motel, and he asked if they spoke English, immediate response with a smile: "No."

There were a couple of elements that fall into the category 'adaptation failure', as I have found explanations for them through comments by people familiar with the book. Not having read that, it doesn't feel right for me to criticize it. I might, saying that the plot had some faults because of the abuse of the source material, but I don't know how much actually had to be cut or rewritten, so let's not go into those problems.
One last point I did want to make was a question and an error I noticed. We are meant to believe that John is only seeing this red figure, the same way he has his premonitions. But we do know that this red thing exists, so he only has premonitions. The same way he used that to try and save his daughter, why does he keep refusing to listen to them? Or is it simply that he cannot tell the difference between reality and vision? The same way he thought Laura was with the sisters when she was actually away. But then how did he figure out that his daughter was drowning? Couldn't he have simply thought that it was just a sensation and it wasn't true?
Last question, and help me understand, is when his jaw drops upon seeing the dwarf under the red hood. He thinks back at the picture he took in one of the churches from the beginning of the movie. Does his jaw drop:
1) Because he realizes he actually caught the killer on film?
2) Because he realizes that this isn't his daughter?
3) Because he realizes that this is the serial killer?
I didn't get it.
(The director also points out that she has a knife in her pocket. Were the previous murders done with a knife? Is that mentioned? And don't tell me that Sutherland couldn't beat up a dwarf that size! When she put the knife to his throat? I honestly started laughing! And at a point there was blood coming from his shoes... he was cut in the neck, so what...?). People said that when the dwarf turns toward him, that that was the creepiest thing they have ever seen... I will wish you not to make friends with old ladies who had plastic surgery, cause you'll be creeped out all the time!

I could even go as far as critizing the music and the editing, but I will not do so for one reason: My kind of generation that brought up on fast paced movies where music doesn't have as much bearing on the plot as it did back in the 70's. The fact that I disliked it on that level, won’t immediately mean, that you will too. But if you care to know, I think the music was awful. It was happy and somewhat hopeful when it had to be creepy and the moment when it was the creepiest was when John looked up at a bar's sign... wow. Really?

See it, don’t see it? Upon reading a comment, I can tell you that if you don’t like the first 10 minutes of the movie, you won’t like any of it. It was the same for me. I only first saw the 7 minutes in the beginning and I already mistook the children for a younger version of our main characters (instead of, you know, their children)! So editing? Also awful for me ... HOWEVER, being called a classic do try and check it out, but keep that in mind!

Coming up next, we are back on schedule with a list of my top 15 favorite actors! Stay tuned!
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Heather - Hilary Mason

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