Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fool's Views: SUTHERLAND IN THE '70s

Dr. AC takes us back to a time when the clothes were a little looser, the hair a little curlier, the paranoia more rampant... It's time for:


Don’t Look Now (1973)

Superb direction by Nicolas Roeg and terrific performances help this strange little adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s story succeed on several levels, deepening with subsequent viewings.

Sutherland and Julie Christie play a married couple reeling from the recent death of their daughter, dramatically played out in the first few minutes. When Sutherland’s work as a restoration expert takes them to Venice to work on a cathedral, they encounter a pair of bizarre middle-aged English sisters, one of whom tells Christie that she has “seen” their daughter. This leads to an unsettling séance where Sutherland is warned to leave Italy, with stranger events unfolding from there.

Roeg keeps his audience off-balance through extensive use of cross-cutting between scenes and flashbacks, and the terrific use of Venice’s blind alleys and waterways only accentuates the disorientation. Not a fast-paced thriller, with a dream-like atmosphere of dread and unpredictability pervading throughout. The “are they really doing it?” sex scene between the leads was trimmed for American distribution, but remains sexy and emotionally visceral. The final scenes will certainly surprise first time viewers; whether they satisfy or not is a matter of taste.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Director Philip Kaufman’s worthy updating of the 1956 sci-fi masterpiece is quirkier and more graphic, with oogey scenes of PG-rated violence and stellar acting all around. This revamped version of Jack Finney’s novel, by W. D. Richter, relocates the setting from that of a small town to that of the equally isolatory existence within a bustling metropolis (San Francisco, in this case), where individuals’ relationships with one another are often so tenuous and surface that we might not initially notice if our neighbors had been “replaced.”

Sutherland stars as a SF health inspector who, along with Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright, begins to suspect that their fellow citizens are being taken over by pod people from space. Kaufman cultivates a marvelous sense of dread and suspense, with numerous striking scenes and elements (the iconic “shriek”, the man/dog combo) – as well as one of the more truly haunting and unsettling endings to be found anywhere. As if to give their stamps of approval, Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel (star and director of the original film, respectively) appear in memorable cameos.

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