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 its naturalistic eroticism and unforgettable climax and denouement, one of the great endings in horror history.
The Criterion Collection presents Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. Taken from a new 4K restoration of the film, Criterion’s release delivers the film in 1080p/24hz.
The European Optimum disc gained a somewhat infamous reputation for having a heavy amount of noise reduction applied to it and because of that I never did pick it up (though not always 100% accurate, screen captures showed a heavily compromised image), hoping that someone in North America would issue a better disc at some point. Thankfully Criterion is the one releasing the film on Blu-ray and other than some minor issues it’s an excellent looking presentation. It’s been cleaned up extensively and I don’t recall many blemishes, and the transfer delivers superb details and textures throughout. The film has a fairly drab, almost dirty look, purposely draining out most reds from the picture, but colour saturation is excellent and colours look to be accurately rendered. When reds do show up they are particularly striking and vibrant, without any rendering issues and looking about as pure a red as possible. Film grain is present and looks natural for the most part, but I noticed some blocking in a few places (stills clearly show this issue but in motion it’s not as noticeable).
In the end it looks good, keeping a natural filmic look and it appears any manipulation has been kept to the bare minimum.
Though a bit flat, the lossless PCM mono track presents audio that has held up rather well over the years. Dialogue is clear, and music has some decent fidelity and range. Some of the higher pitch moments have a bit of an edgy squeal to them but that’s about the worst that can be said about the track. In all it’s very strong.
Though it appears packed the supplements, despite some good material, left me a little underwhelmed in the end. Criterion ports over two featurettes produced by Blue Underground that appeared on other European releases: ”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 various aspects of the film, from scouting the church that appears in the film to the sex scene, the imagery, and then the film’s use of red (amusingly the interviews feature what appears to be someone wearing a red hooded jacket in the background). I enjoyed the next feature a little more, which is an interview with composer Pino Donaggio. Donaggio talks about how he came to do the score for the film despite actually not having any experience writing them before, and explains how Roeg reigned him a few times. The experience of course led to doing other scores, like Brian De Palma’s Carrie (and according to Donaggio De Palma watched Don’t Look Now numerous times because of the score). It’s a great interview, especially during the last little bit where Donaggio shows off his recording studio in Venice, just off the canal.
Something Interesting is a 30-minute compilation of recent interviews with 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 certainly Sutherland’s and Christie’s participation. The two of course talk about coming on to the project and sharing their view on the story (Christie actually considered not doing the film because she felt the film’s killer played into a certain stereotype) and then share what their experience was like 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 the influence Roeg had 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 own films. I’m not sure what these were recorded for (they were obviously filmed many years ago) but Criterion has put together a nice examination of Roeg’s style using these two.
Nicely accompanying that last feature is a 43-minute interview between editor Graeme Clifford and Bobbie O’Steen. This very in-depth interview features Clifford talking about the complex editing of the film, while O’Steen asks 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 basically 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 not comfortable with English. From these takes he took the most uncomfortable ones with the inspector and worked the scene around those. It’s a fantastic and fairly illuminating interview on the film’s editing and language, easily the best feature on here.
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 style of directing, how he plans out his films, shooting in Venice, the editing, and even talks about 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 account on making the film is welcome.
The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer. The included insert features an essay by David Thompson, who goes over the film’s story, presentation of grief, the editing, and how it compares to the original short story on which it is based.
Overall the features are fine, with some decent analytical elements looking at the film’s editing and Roeg’s style, but the lack of much in the way of new material, especially a commentary, disappointed me somewhat.
This new release disappointingly reuses a lot of older material for supplements, but it still contains some great features on the film’s editing and visual language. The new high-def presentation is excellent, though, making the release a must for admirers of the film.