Two kids are playing while the girl’s parents (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) are inside. Girl drowns in a pond wearing a red jacket. Donald senses danger and rushes outside, too late. Roeg is in top form, between Walkabout and Man Who Fell to Earth, with editing that kept making me say “whoa” out loud, and this must be one of the most thrilling movie openings (and endings) ever. Wonder if this is what Trier was aiming to outdo with his own child-death opening of Antichrist.

The family is in Venice while Donald works on architectural restorations. Julie meets a blind psychic who says her dead daughter is happy, is troubled by this but wants to see the psychic again if she has contact with the daughter. Donald is experiencing spooky visions and having near-fatal accidents, while incidentally, there seems to be a murderer on the loose and the psychic tells him he’s in danger and should get out of town. The movie continues building atmosphere without much story to speak of, until Donald has a fatal encounter with the local murderer, a midget women with a red jacket like the daughter’s and a sharp knife. Predates The Shining in featuring characters who can see visions of the future but this doesn’t actually help them.

Now that I’ve seen this, I wonder if Cronenberg was attempting a grotesque parody/reference with The Brood. Original story by Daphne du Maurier (The Birds & Rebecca). Nominated for all the Baftas, winning cinematography. Blind psychic Hilary Mason later appeared in a couple Stuart Gordon movies.

Need to see again… and again.

Ben Wheatley:

It’s an odd feeling, the realisation that you may have to revisit films at every stage of your life. I thought I’d “done” Don’t Look Now. I had no idea. I suppose I should have had a clue as it’s a Roeg film. It’s a kaleidoscope of meaning. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in 10 years’ time.

“The past is a foreign county. They do things differently there.” No longer just a Silkworm lyric (from the same song that references “Willie” Somerset Maugham and possibly Casablanca), now back home in its proper element, or at least the film adaptation of its proper element.

A quality picture with excellent production design and fluid camera movement – like Carol Reed with a touch of Alain Resnais. It’s a perfect storm of my least-favorite types of movies: British upper-class period costume dramas and coming-of-age stories. But, highly recommended and Cannes-award-winning and all, I stuck with it and really loved the last half hour.

Kid named Leo is spending the summer with a family in the country, but his playmate Marcus (I like him – privileged asshole with a good vocabulary) gets the measles, leaving Leo to pal around with the grownups, getting involved in their secret affairs as a messenger boy. Julie Christie (between Petulia and McCabe & Mrs. Miller) is the young hottie of the household, promised to dull scarfaced Hugh Trimingham (Edward Fox of Day of the Jackal) but having a Leo-assisted affair with rough farmer Ted Burgess (Alan Bates of Secret Friends, also Chabrol’s Dr. M). Once the lovers are caught together and Julie seems lost to him, Ted shoots himself.

Fancy Hugh:

“We can’t expect to be happy all the time, can we?”

Fun sidetracks with Leo’s belief in occult curses. A dog with a name like “dry toast” (tri-toes?). A cricket ball is batted straight into the camera. A 1970’s love-triangle movie set among wheat fields, bringing to mind Days of Heaven. Little bursts of voiceover dialogue, like scenes omitted for time, or sometimes repeating what we’ve heard. An unexplained, unheard shot of a conversation between two characters we haven’t seen – only when going back through the screenshots did I notice the television set in the corner, definite sign of a flash-forward. The present day keeps breaking through into the early-century period story, and suddenly Leo is sixty (now Michael Redgrave of Mr. Arkadin, Secret Beyond the Door), summoned to visit Julie Christie (backlit to avoid displaying her old-age makeup).

“So you met my grandson”
“Yes I did”
“Does he remind you of anyone?”
“Ted Burgess”
“That’s it. That’s it. He does.”

Leo Redgrave:

Based on a famous novel, screenplay by Harold Pinter, who also wrote The Servant and Accident. Senses calls it Losey’s last great film and compliments Michel Legrand’s fine score. “Aside from its intelligence and insight, however, it hardly seems to be a Losey film—it is evocative, judicious, perfectly cast, but rather cautious.”

Shooting Down Pictures:

Occurring mostly in the past with occasional flashes to the present, Pinter’s manipulation of time feels perfunctory compared to what Alain Resnais was doing a decade prior, or even what Pinter managed in his script for Losey’s Accident. More interesting is Losey’s entymological dramatization of British manor life, exhibiting both gentility and prejudice with near-emotionless decorum. Pinter’s dialogue pinpoints the neurotic weirdness underlying British politeness with unnerving precision, and is served ably by the ensemble, especially Dominic Guard as the boy, whose naivete and unwitting indiscretions stand sharply against the hypocrisy and innuendo surrounding him.

Katy said let’s start holding theme months again – perhaps Westerns Month, or Robert Altman Month. To delay making a decision, I played a Robert Altman Western. She said it wasn’t bad, but please no more movies like that, so Westerns it shall be.

Foolish me, I actually thought this wouldn’t be so Altmanesque. He made it right after MASH, but I’ve seen Images from the following year, so I’d convinced myself that he didn’t pick up the ensemble overlapping-dialogue thing again until ’75 with Nashville, making a few movies with a distinguishable soundtrack there in between. But no, this one was extremely ensembley and each noisy scene seemed to have been recorded with a room mic placed a couple rooms over. Katy points out that it may have exploded Western conventions in ’71, but now that they’ve been exploded for so long, we don’t see this as a very daring experiment, just a mushmouthed dialogue-heavy flick full of Leonard Cohen songs with a great chase/shootout ending.


Another disappointment: when Julie Christie finally showed up I was expecting a force of nature a la Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar, but she doesn’t do much more than build a bath house and take over the whoring at Beatty’s new pub. As an article in The Guardian points out, our protagonists are “nothing like as confident as they would have us believe.” Recognized Shelley Duvall in a pretty small role as a mail-order bride and Michael “Tanner” Murphy as a businessman who fails to negotiate with Beatty over the sale of his land, leading to a snowy hide-and-seek shootout throughout the town, Murphy replaced by a gang of thugs who do not negotiate. I’m slowly learning my Carradines – a fresh-faced Keith (star of Fuller’s Street of No Return) played a doomed vacationing cowboy.

Mrs. Miller:

Mostly I liked the look, the feel, the light, the editing and pace. I wouldn’t say it had a documentary feel, but it felt like the scenes were happening on their own and the cameras were struggling to keep up (*). Has a good reputation these days, voted one of the greatest-ever westerns by some group or another. At the time, Christie lost her oscar to Jane Fonda, for something called Klute, and Vilmos Zsigmond’s hazy cinematography was only honored at the Baftas, where he was also nominated for Images.

(*) I thought that was a pretty neat thing I’d thought/written there about the movie, but when I went looking for articles I found that everyone else had thought it already. For instance, C. Taylor for Salon:

Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), is a hard-headed madam with dreams of her own, the ones emanating from her opium pipe. The movie feels as delicate, as lulling, as Mrs. Miller’s drug-induced visions, and yet the life it shows us, the town and its people, are so real and sturdy we seem to have stumbled on them. The life the movie shows us is already being lived by the time we turn up. And everything we encounter evolves naturally — the setting, the characters, the story and most of all the mood.

A. Danks for Senses of Cinema:

McCabe and Mrs. Miller follows the coordinates of the most rudimentary of westerns; full of archetypal and cliched characters and situations such as the loner/stranger who shakes up a frontier town and the whore-with-the-heart-of-gold. But these classical or archetypal elements are undermined by the film’s opaque view of its characters, its foregrounding of atmosphere and place (including the ‘atmosphere’ of place, weather), and a technique which captures characters (both their bodies and voices) within pictorial tableaux that emphasise their relativity to the unfolding drama. In this respect, parts of, and indeed images within McCabe and Mrs. Miller resemble a painting by the sixteenth century artist Pieter Bruegel; broken up into interlocking tableaux and brought up to date (i.e. into cinema) by the deployment of favourite Altman devices like the zoom, the pan and multi-tracked sound – these devices serving to distance the events and characters from the viewer while opening up the frame, and the relationship between frames, to the scrutiny of the spectator.

Alzheimer’s movie by Sarah Polley, who bravely wrestled herself and Julie Christie away from Hal Hartley before he could cast either of them in another of his increasingly bad movies.

Surprisingly heartwarming movie, not the sad slog it might’ve been. Christie is the devoted wife with alzheimer’s, Gordon Pinsent (shipping news, tons of tv stuff) is the devoted husband, Michael Murphy (john sayles movies) is Julie’s fellow nursing home patient and Olympia Dukakis (mr. holland’s opus) is Murphy’s wife.

Movie jumps through time and space, visiting scenes out of order but with a sense of purpose, flashing back and slowly revealing, not just the usual “start with the ending for the helluvit” (see: pan’s labyrinth). Seems Gordon cheated on Julie years before, and as she’s forgetting her way home and forgetting where the dishes go in the kitchen, she can’t forget that. In the rest home she assumes a new identity as the wife of Michael Murphy, much to her real husband’s and Murphy’s real wife’s horror. It’s a clever balancing act: is Julie punishing Murphy for past transgressions or is she so far gone that she really doesn’t recognize him?

Just a gorgeous movie with excellent story, performances, close-ups, snowy cross-country skiing, and Julie Christie’s beautiful expressions. One of my faves so far this year.

Oops, wasn’t paying enough attention and will have to see this again. At least I determined that it’s worth seeing again. Julie Christie and George C Scott are a blast, and the editing is wonderfuly disturbing. Lot of relationship stuff in here, specifically about divorce. George is leaving his wife to feel free again, chasing Julie as his symbol of freedom. Julie is beaten almost to death at the end, I think by her husband, and ends up staying with him. So much for freedom. Ohhhhh, “cinematography by Nicolas Roeg” explains a lot.

Petulia 1

Petulia 2