Saturday, October 23, 2004

Regrettable DVD Purchases, Part Two: Don't Look Now (1973)

Okay, quick show of hands. Who remembers what Donald Sutherland looked like in the 70's? No, not his 70's. The 70's. Remember? The huge, topiary-garden hair that partnered with his smeared-on mustache and creepy lizard eyes to create a look that answered the question, "What if Doctor Who was a coke dealer?" Remember that? Okay, now we're getting somewhere. So, everybody who remembers this, who among you has any desire to watch a bare-ass naked Donald Sutherland grind his man-parts against Julie Christie for oh, say, about four-and-a-half minutes? Nobody? Nobody at all? Thank you. The prosecution rests its case.

"Don't Look Now" is hailed by legions of film critics as one of the best horror movies ever made. With this in mind, I bought the DVD. Sure, I hadn't seen it before, but certainly a film with so many critical accolades must be a masterpiece. Right? Imagine my surprise when I discovered that "Don't Look Now" in fact sucks, and hard. Let's forget, for the moment, that protracted, almost documentary-style sex scene. (And oh, how I wish I could forget it.) "Don't Look Now's" main fault is that it is ostensibly a "horror" or "suspense" film and yet it is neither horrifying nor suspenseful. It's boring. Lead actor Donald Sutherland overacts his heart out in a vain effort to animate a severely underwritten character. Julie Christie is saddled with an even flatter character, to compliment her flatter acting style. Sutherland and Christie play a married couple who lose their young daughter in a rather mannered drowning accident. The film gives us no reason to care about these characters, beyond the fact that their child is dead. When the film was over, I had as much sense of their personalities as if I'd watched a twenty-second news clip about mudslide victims. (Yes, it's tragic, but who the fuck ARE you?) Nicolas Roeg's direction is "arty" without really being expressive. It's utterly ineffective in building any kind of suspense. The script is similarly flaccid, devoid of wit or verve, and borders at times on the nonsensical. Either Roeg, screenwriter Allan Scott, or a drunken editor decided that it would be a fabulous idea to "induce chills" by smash-cutting to a scene of two secondary characters laughing uproariously about God knows what. Because this makes them seem like they might possibly, maybe, after a fashion, sorta, kinda be vaguely sinister! Or not! Jeebus. I'm shaking my head just writing this.

I watched "Don't Look Now" twice -- just to confirm my suspicion that I was right and it was the rest of the world that was crazy, and then I sold it to a new-and-used DVD store. I clutch to my wounded soul this meager consolation: at least I got to see Donald Sutherland get stabbed to death by a dwarf.

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