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Your November Random Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: A psychic thriller.

Pizza: Numero Uno

Preshow Entertainment: John Waters - THIS FILTHY WORLD


Ah. A Nicholas Roeg movie. When I worked in home video (read: video store clerk) in NYC, a lot of customers and employees just loved director Nicholas Roeg. I saw WALKABOUT when I was barely 14 (too young and stupid to really understand it) and six years later, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. But that's about it. I've always been interested in BAD TIMING, with its odd casting of Art Garfunkel, and DON'T LOOK NOW, which people always raved about. So now it's time to see if DON'T LOOK NOW deserves the raves it got, because it was randomly selected as this month's movie.

Husband and wife John and Laura Baxter's (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) daughter Christine accidentally drowns in the lake by their house. It's a harrowing opening scene (the best scene in the movie) that haunts you for an hour and fifty minutes, and then after the movie ends.

And maybe even the next day. So you could only imagine what it must have been like for them. And to accentuate the image, Christine was wearing a red raincoat (or mac, for you limey bastards). It's an image that gets burned in, sort of like that SCHINDLER'S LIST brat.

Later, the Baxters find themselves in Venice where he's in charge of restoring a church (and their lives). It's here that Laura encounters two sweet yet creepy sisters, one of which, Heather (Hilary Mason), claims to be a psychic. She also states that John is a seer, which would explain this; while Christine was drowning, John was looking at a red-raincoated girl in a slide of the church.

Because Laura is a distraught and fragile mom (she even packed Christine's ball to take to Venice with her), she believes it when Heather tells her Christine is happy. This changes Laura's demeanor to perky. Not so perky is John, who fears his wife's remedy may not be the best for her mental health. This leads the two of them to follow their own paths. And if all this isn't enough to worry about, there seems to be a killer lurking on the streets and canals of Venice.

Heather also warns Laura that John is in danger if he stays in Venice. And sure enough, John nearly buys it in a dazzling scene where Sutherland looks like he's doing a Cirque Du Soleil rope suspension. But was that a coincidence or was Heather right?

Things really kick in when John spots Laura on a boat going the opposite way up a canal. But how can that be? She went back to England. What is going on here??? Is John going crazy? Or did those creepy sisters have something to do with this? And wait, is John actually seeing visions of Christine in her red raincoat?

Don't look for answers to everything in DON'T LOOK NOW, for it's a psychological thriller whose loose ends don't always get tied. It leans more on mood than scares, all in a style almost its own. Roeg and his editor, Graeme Clifford (who right after this went on to cut THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, another underrated display of editing ), make creative use of time which keeps you wondering if what you're seeing is actually something that hasn't yet happened. The standout of this being the famous sex scene (more on this in a moment), where the shots alternate with those of the couple dressing to go out.

Also effective, the repetitive images, like glass breaking and water water everywhere (they are in Venice, after all). More central (yet obtuse) to the plot, a red Rorschach-looking pattern cropping up against a largely muted and earth tone movie (the pattern appears on the slide of the church and when Donald dangles). Red also shows up in an article of clothing hung on a line, a patch on John's scarf, or worse...a pool of blood. Other isolated images stand out too, like the drop-cloths flopped over the furniture in the lobby of the hotel, draped like ghosts in a haunted mansion. Even Venice itself has its romance stripped away, revealing it as a dank and dusky sewer.

It's not just the visuals that make the mood. There's an emotional depth that runs throughout this movie. Two forces working against each other; the hopeful mom willing to believe Christine is talking to the psychic from beyond the grave versus the skeptical dad who is constantly reminded (bombarded, even) with unexplainable situations and mocking images, like when a shroud comes off a statue he is installing at the church, revealing a demon sticking his tongue out at him. NOTE: I think it's a demon. It could be a gargoyle. Great. Now I'm going to be up all night trying to answer this too?

And speaking of religion, there are references aplenty. For starters, the daughter's name is Christine and his John Baxter (isn't there a religious John that had something to do with bodies under the water?). And the blind sister mentions religious upstart John Milton (who also ended up blind) liking Venice.

And now a word about the "legendary" sex scene between John and Laura. I thought seeing Sutherland's ass in ANIMAL HOUSE was enough for me, but lo, this sex scene is graphic and lengthy. Rumor has it that Sutherland and Christie were "method" actors here.

So was Roeg's ominous movie of Daphne Du Maurier's (THE BIRDS, REBECCA) story as good as the video store denizens claimed? I believe so. It's creepy, but it won't scare you. Don't look for Jason Vorhees' mother to be splashing about the canals of Venice. This movie is a mood movie, orchestrated using imagery and editing to make you feel uneasy. I always love movies that have a feel...and make you feel. DON'T LOOK NOW can haunt you. After all, why should the movie's characters be the only ones that are haunted?


This is a videotaped live performance of John Waters talking about life (mostly his) to a crowd of students that don't look half as interested as he is. Waters is, undoubtedly, a personality, filled with so much joy that you begin to feel it too. The problem here is, instead of us patting him on the back, he does it to himself.

In THIS FILTHY WORLD, Waters takes credit for a lot of things, like tea-bagging. And he drops so many names it's hard to pick them all up. At one point, he actually says something like, "I don't want to drop names, but..." Too late, John!

Not exactly a lecture, not exactly a stand-up routine, and because of that, it doesn't exactly work. Yes, it's informative and at times amusing, but it's a bit boring. It has the cadence of a stand-up show, but one where the comedian is the only one laughing, exemplified by the audience barely clapping at the recognition of his movie titles, yet Waters was all too quick to say "thank you" when the lukewarm applause began.

There's no denying Waters' place in society. I'm so glad he's here. I like him and his movies. But this outing didn't quite work.

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