A fitting tribute to British director Nicolas Roeg, the man who just fell from Earth passing away on November 23, 2018, at age 90 is a screening of his eerie, atmospheric thriller from 1973, ‘Don’t Look Now.’
Roeg, who began as a master cinematographer, had a distinctive visual style that received perhaps its most brilliant expression in this suspenseful film adapted from a story by Daphne Du Maurier, the author of ‘Rebecca.’ Screenwriters Allan Scott and Chris Bryant retained the basic premise of the story but embellished and expanded it under Roeg’s guidance.
Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland play a married couple whose young daughter drowns in the movie’s opening scene. A few months later, they are in Venice, where Sutherland is working to restore an old church. But they are still grief-stricken and traumatized, and when they meet two elderly sisters who claim to be able to communicate with their dead daughter, the couple embark on a supernatural journey that takes them in unexpected directions.
Set in the gray of winter, the film avoids the usual Venice tourist spots and instead creates an indelible vision of a labyrinthine city cloaked in shadows and sinister portents, as a murderer also haunts the canals and byways and threatens the lives of the two lead characters. Roeg’s fractured editing style adds to the unsettling nature of the film, but this editing also contributes to one of the most famous interludes in the film, a lovemaking scene between Christie and Sutherland that has been called one of the most erotic and influential in cinema history.
Roeg oversaw some of the astonishing second unit photography in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ before graduating to cinematographer of such films as ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ ‘Far from the Madding Crowd,’ and ‘Petulia’ (all starring Christie). He made his directing debut (sharing credit with screenwriter Donald Cammell) on the Mick Jagger film ‘Performance.’ Other memorable Roeg films include ‘Walkabout,’ ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ with David Bowie, and ‘Bad Timing,’ which teamed Art Garfunkel with Theresa Russell, the actress who became Roeg’s wife and the star of many of his late films.
The director’s nonlinear storytelling and visual acuity had a tremendous influence on other directors, including Danny Boyle, Steven Soderbergh, and Martin McDonagh, who have all paid tribute to Roeg’s gifts.
Text: courtesy of Stephen Farber for Laemmle Anniversary Classics
Don’t Look Now | Ahrya Fine Arts | Dec 18