Don't Look Now
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie mesmerize as a married couple on an extended trip to Venice following a family tragedy. While in that elegantly decaying city, they have a series of inexplicable, terrifying, and increasingly dangerous experiences. A masterpiece from Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now, adapted from a story by Daphne du Maurier, is a brilliantly disturbing tale of the supernatural, as renowned for its innovative editing and haunting cinematography as for its naturalistic eroticism and its unforgettable climax and denouement—one of the great endings in horror history.
The Criterion Collection has regained the rights to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now from Paramount and has upgraded it to 4K UHD. Using StudioCanal’s newer 4K restoration in place of their own from 2015, the 2160p/24hz ultra-high-definition digital presentation is delivered on a triple-layer disc in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Dolby Vision. Criterion also includes a standard dual-layer Blu-ray disc featuring a 1080p film presentation alongside this release’s special features. Outside of the disc art, it replicates the 2015 release, using Criterion’s original 4K restoration.
This looks very pleasing overall, though I am now a bit annoyed I never picked up StudioCanal’s 4K edition. I recall some initial complaints about it, though it appears concerns were targeted more at how the new restoration’s color grading differed from Criterion’s. If that was all and the colors are the same as Criterion delivers here, then I’d have to say it’s not a real issue. They look warmer than Criterion’s old Blu-ray, but it’s not excessive and suits a film from the period. It’s nothing like what Ritrovata and the like have done. Whites are warmer, not yellow, and blues still look nicely saturated and “blue,” not cyan, as evidenced in Donald Sutherland’s coat that he often sports throughout the film. The film’s color scheme is generally dull, too, so it suits, but the presentation still delivers some beautiful pops of color. Reds look incredibly vibrant, with the rain slicker in the opening and the jacket later in the film popping out, even in the dark. Dolby Vision ends up helping here, too, as with blacks. Black levels can still be a little murky in a handful of places, which I feel is inherent in the photography, but the film’s darker sequences, like those found in the climax, are far easier to see, exposing a bit more in the shadows. The rendering of the fog has been spruced up as well.
And on this note, the encode is notably better than Criterion’s old Blu-ray, which I mentioned at the time looked “blocky” in places and undoubtedly looks worse now. I was also happy to see that the odd smoothing/filtering artifacts that were present in Criterion’s recent 4K presentation for Walkabout don’t show up here after mentally preparing myself for the possibility (though that was eased when nothing similar showed in Videodrome), the image delivering a pleasing photographic appearance when all is said and done. That said, looking at the SDR screen captures, there are some minor blocking patterns evident in a handful of sky shots, as though it’s being opted not to render all details within large bright areas if they’re not that heavy to begin with. Unlike Walkabout’s presentation, I don’t think this translates at all during playback, but only because it’s nowhere near as bad, with grain and shading still present. I also thought highlights, in general (like those found in the rain slicker), looked decent. Still, it’s just a bit odd as the digital presentation does a solid job overall, capturing and rendering a lot of detail and doing it well, only to have trouble in these areas. Thankfully, it ends up not being a real concern this time around.
(The SDR screen grabs are taken directly from the source disc. They have been converted from PNG files and converted to JPG files. While they should provide a general idea of quality, they should not be considered reference quality.)
It appears the film’s monaural audio has also been restored, presented again in lossless PCM. I think it comes off a little sharper. Dialogue sounds very clear with adequate fidelity, and music shows a modest amount of range without sounding overly distorted. It again sounds perfectly fine.
No features are included on the 4K disc, with everything in this department found on the standard Blu-ray disc. Since the disc replicates the 2015 release, all elements have been ported over. This includes the two featurettes originally produced for Blue Underground’s edition, ”Don’t Look Now” Looking Back, from 2002, and Death in Venice, from 2006, running 19 minutes and 17 minutes, respectively. The first features interviews with Roeg, director of photography Anthony Richmond, and editor Graeme Clifford. I found this segment a bit scattershot and unfocussed as the three talk about numerous aspects of the film, from scouting the church that appears in the movie to the sex scene, covering the imagery, like the film’s use of red. I enjoyed the next feature a little more, simply an interview with composer Pino Donaggio. Donaggio talks about how he came to do the score despite not having any experience writing them before and explains how Roeg reigned him in a few times. The experience, of course, led to doing other scores, like Brian De Palma’s Carrie, with Donaggio noting how De Palma watched Don’t Look Now numerous times because of the score. It’s a great interview, especially during the last bit, where Donaggio shows off his recording studio in Venice, just off the canal.
Something Interesting is a 30-minute compilation of recent interviews featuring Richmond, writer Allan Scott, and actors Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. There’s more here on the script development thanks to Scott’s contribution, but the most interesting aspect is Sutherland’s and Christie’s participation. The two talk about coming on to the project and sharing their view on the story (Christie considered not doing the film because she felt the film’s killer played into a certain stereotype) and then share their experience working with Roeg.
Criterion next edits together archival interviews featuring directors Steven Soderbergh and Danny Boyle for Nicolar Roeg: The Enigma of Film. During this 14-minute segment, the two directors (interviewed separately) talk about Roeg's influence on them, focusing primarily on his framing, angles, and editing, explaining what struck them most about his style. The two also admit to lifting shots and sequences directly for their films. I’m not sure what these were recorded for (they were obviously filmed many years before the Blu-ray’s release in 2015), but through the two filmmakers’ comments, Criterion has assembled a terrific examination of Roeg’s style.
Nicely accompanying that last feature is a 43-minute interview between editor Graeme Clifford and Bobbie O’Steen. This in-depth discussion features Clifford discussing the film’s complex editing style with O’Steen questioning him about particular scenes. I think what surprised me most is that a lot of the editing decisions appear to have been left up to Clifford, with Roeg approving of what he did. Clifford would purposely use some of the more unconventional, unnerving, and “off” takes to create a sense of unease, probably best displayed in the sequence where Sutherland’s character goes to the police inspector, who was played by an actor uncomfortable with English. From these takes he took the most awkward ones with the inspector and worked the entire sequences around those. It’s a fantastic and illuminating interview on the film’s editing and language, easily still the best and most fascinating feature included.
The disc then features footage from a Q&A session with Nicolas Roeg at Ciné Lumière. Filmed after a screening of Don’t Look Now, Roeg talks about his directing style, how he plans out and edits his films, what it was like shooting in Venice, and even brings up author Daphne Du Maurier’s reaction to his adaptation. At 47 minutes, it can be a bit long-winded, but getting more of Roeg’s firsthand accounts of making the film is welcome.
The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer. The included poster insert also replicates the Blu-ray’s, featuring the same essay by David Thompson going over the film’s story and presentation of grief before getting into its technical attributes. He also compares the film to the original short story on which it is based.
Yet again, it’s all primarily archival, and I wish Criterion filmed something new, but it’s still all reasonably interesting to go through.
There are no new features, but the presentation delivers a significant upgrade over Criterion’s 2015 Blu-ray, slight issues aside.