Movies I Adore: “Don’t Look Now”

Every now and then you have to quit bitching and moaning and shout your love for something. Being a filmmaker, movies have always “spoken to me”. I adore it as a form of storytelling. It’s so easy to get wrong. Soooooo easy.

But when a movie is right. It lives inside your head. It’s the storytelling and the look and the characters and the dialogue and the music and the casting and even the greens and set dec — it’s all sublime. There are lots of “directors” but only a handful of artists. I’ve had the pleasure of working with an artist — Bob Zemeckis.

In a way, Bob’s an “artist of the impossible”.

Bob was one of my Executive Producers when I did Tales From The Crypt for HBO. I wrote most of the episodes he directed. For starters, he is an incredible collaborator. He truly knows how to get the very best out of everyone he works with. Which is where the “impossible” comes in. At some point, in a Zemeckis piece, there’s going to be at least one shot that — if you’re looking and realize you’re watching it — is impossible. Meaning — yeah, the shot’s there in the movie but how the hell did they get it? It’s impossible!

When I was a young buck, a terrific documentary filmmaker I had the honor to know — Greg Shuker — turned me on to Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” — a psychological thriller starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

Don't Look NowI don’t want to give away a great ending but — that the ending works as effectively as it does, that it’s as memorable as it is — it’s a testament to the masterful work director Nic Roeg has done up till then.

Water plays heavily.  The color red, too.  Sutherland plays John, an art restorer preparing for a project he’s about to start in Venice, Italy.  He and Christie’s Laura own a farm out in the country where their two young children are playing on a rainy day.  Their young daughter drowns in the pond — something her father “senses”.  He rushes outside but too late.  He pulls her body — clad in its red mac — from the pond with a doleful wail.

It’s a few months later.  They’ve buried their child.  Their son is at boarding school as the restoration project in Venice begins.  On their first night, Laura and John make love (for the first time since their daughter died) then go out to dinner.  At the next table are two elderly English sisters.  One is blind.  They happen to be in the ladies’ room when Laura enters.

The blind sister is psychic.  She says she’s seen Laura and John’s daughter.  She was happy.  Laughing.  Laura is blown away.  She doesn’t know what to think.  But John — when Laura tells him — thinks it’s all nonsense and wishful thinking. 

And yet.  As the movie goes on, John begins to catch glimpses of a fleeing figure in red.  Is it the spirit of his daughter — or something else?

Roeg was a director of photography before sliding into the director’s chair.  His films look great.  He captures Venice’s wateriness — its dullness.  Its greyness and fog.  He captures the feeling one gets — being there — of wandering in circles — hopelessly lost.  But the Roeg’s real genius as a director was in how he cut.  He had a way of intercutting two scenes that no one else could touch.

An excellent example — the scene where John and Laura make love for that first time since their daughter’s death.  Roeg intercuts the sex — which is very intimate (there have always been stories that the sex between Christie and Sutherland was real) — with John and Laura, post-coital, get ready to go out for dinner.  You really get the feeling that they’re a couple — which makes the sex we keep intercutting back to feel more organic and real.

For my money, the sex scene in Don’t Look Now is one of the best 2 or 3 sex scenes in all of movie history (the caveat being that most sex scenes suck).  And — here’s the kicker — it’s between a married couple.  That’s a sex scene you never see — between married people.

Nic Roeg died a few months ago.  I still owe Greg Shuker — for introducing him to me.

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Wouldn’t Ya Just LOVE To Give Conservatives The World They REALLY Want?

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Remember this guy?  The Crypt Keeper?  Friend of mine actually.  For real.  He used to say “Be careful what you wish for, kiddies, you may just get it!”  Then the Crypt Keeper would laugh — kinda like this —

And then he’d get on with the episode.

Now, of course, when the Crypt Keeper warned that you’d ‘get’ it, he didn’t mean that you’d ‘receive the thing you wanted’.  He meant, ironically, the opposite.  You’d ‘GET IT’ and wish like hell you hadn’t.

That’s how republicans would feel — in a very short amount of time — about The World they have been trying to foist upon the rest of us:  “Wait — we didn’t realize THIS would happen if we had our way — send it back to the kitchen!  Is it too late to order something else off the menu?”

American conservatives — if we take them at their word — want to CONSERVE a world where:

  • The Rich Get Richer
  • Everyone else gets poorer
  • A dwindling Social Safety Net (to pay for the rich guys)
  • White Christian Male Cultural Hegemony rules
  • Abortion is illegal & so is Birth Control
  • All non-European immigration is illegal
  • The Free Press is not Free
  • Guns are even MORE ubiquitous than they are already
  • Anyone who isn’t Straight, white, Christian & male is automatically suspicious.
  • Might makes Right
  • Ignorance is bliss

A lot of conservatives want to bring religion (theirs) back to a Central position it really never had in American Life — except in Currier & Ives prints.

A lot of conservatives want to restrict education to ‘special white people’ only.  Everyone else is going to work the gig economy while their faltering, compromised standard of living gets harder and harder to maintain.

A lot of conservatives think guns should be everywhere.  Literally EVERYWHERE (except republican party events).

American Conservatives now think conspiring with a hostile foreign power is no different than cleaning hand and finger prints off a gun you just used to murder someone.   No prints, no crime.

Uh huh.  Let’s see if Mr Mueller goes along with that…

If one could really pull off ‘Thought Experiments’, I would LOVE to give Conservatives the world they crave.

First, of course (because it’s a thought experiment), we’d put all the Conservatives in one part of the country (one that’s already hard core red) and — irony — PUT A WALL AROUND IT.

Then we, the progressive world, would go do our thing for, say, A GENERATION while our conservative chums did the same thing inside their world.  Then, at a certain pre-determined time and place, we’d all get together and COMPARE NOTES.  Question:  How would Conservative World have done in contrast to Progressive World?

If we realistically laid out Each World’s approach to education, to diversity, to health care, to birth control & abortion, to financing the commonweal itself, we would find very distinct countries:  One — Conservative Land — would be lots of fun to live in if you were straight and white.  More of a daily grind if you weren’t but that’s by design.

For anyone else, Conservative Land would be the ‘spark’ in their lives going out.  It’d be the voice of Reason sputtering.

For us, it’s just another day in TrumpLand…

Conservative Land would NOT be a place that innovated anything because innovative people would have been dissuaded from going there.  Conservatives figuring that THEIR gene pool would make up the difference are going to be mighty shocked when they discover that White People — fine as they are — aren’t an more innovative than anyone else.  In a world though where few new ideas gain purchase (because thinking the SAME is encouraged), innovation fails to ignite.

Thinking the same promotes acting the same promotes being the same.

And yet — as it teetered toward ruin — because bankrupt, because horrible standard of living, because dwindling tax base — Conservative World would still THINK it was succeeding.  What everyone else called failure, they’d call ‘doing things their way’.  But, no — it’s failure.  Total failure by EVERY other name.

Conservative World would probably attend the meet-up as spiffed up as it could be — but unable to hide how hard things have been.  Holding out their hand to Progressive World — after the hand-shaking was done — probably gave the WHOLE GAME away:  They needed help.

And they knew Progressive world 1) could help and 2) probably would help.

Progressive World would be a very different place — where anything can happen because so many people are creating so many things and thinking so many exciting new thoughts.  Diversity challenges everyone to compete against everyone else on the levelest possible playing field.

Diversity of opinion and process, diversity of point of view, diversity of problem-solving.  The human genome works by favoring strong attributes over weak ones — strong attributes being the ones where you’ll ‘survive better’ for having them.  The irony (cause you can never have too much irony) is that White Supremacists are under the mistaken impression that they can ‘fine tune’ and ‘purify’ their white genes by excluding everything else from their gene pool.

One more dumb white person idea gets revealed for the dumb white person idea that it is.  White Supremacists aren’t stupid.  The aren’t incompetent.  But they do cling on to bad information like it was their last dollar — which is stupid.

While Progressives could never, would never have a place in Conservative World, the opposite is almost never true.  It’s not true now.

One of the most important aspects about Progressive World — what really sets it apart from Conservative World — is that it evolves.  All the time.  It allows people to evolve.  To grow up and mature.  To live and LEARN.  And then to come back to the fold and contribute — hopefully having LEARNED from their mistakes.

There wouldn’t be a single attribute about Conservative World that wasn’t a thousand times better in Progressive World — Food, Entertainment, Art, Technology, Governance.

The only question remaining after this Thought Experiment — if it could be made real?  What to do about the fence we’ve built around Conservative World.  We’re not tearing it down — that’s for sure.  Hell — the question I’m thinking of is — do we build it even higher?  Or do we must mine the damn thing and enjoy the fireworks?