I first saw this film as a teenager on a black and white TV late at night. I didn't know much about the film except that it was a horror film of sorts. I soon found that it was so much more. As the film progressed it got very late, but I knew I couldn't go to bed until it was over. It left me speechless. The direction, the acting, the music, and especially the feeling of escalating dread - what would happen at the end? The ending not only surprised me, but actually made me gasp in shock.
A couple, bereaved after their daughter's death, stay awhile in wintry Venice. Two elderly sisters claim to be in contact with the dead girl, but are they telling the truth, or are they con artists? Add to this a series of strange events and a murderer terrorising the city...
This could have been (and indeed sounds like) a cheap horror flick. The reason "Don't Look Now" is a classic (an overused word, but true in this case) is that we care about the Baxters. Sutherland and Christie are thoroughly believable, especially when they have lines about the occult that could easily be corny. The same is true of Roeg's direction - instead of cheese we get a real sensation of doom. Rather than picture-postcard Venice we have rats, crumbling buildings and a bleakly-coloured maze full of confusion.
We are also left wondering about the supporting cast (even at the end we are not sure of everyone's good character). The two dotty old sisters. The shifty priest. The hotel manager. Even the police detective seems a little suspicious. Visual motifs recur - a child's ball, the red of the dead girl's coat - are they hints from the dead girl to her parents?
Of course the film is famous for its sex scene, and it is justly celebrated. A scene of love-making is inter-cut with shots of the couple dressing for dinner. This is one of the few cases in film where the scene is necessary to the story - the couple have become distant but the meeting with the two sisters may actually have brought them back together. It is also (if this is the right word) tastefully done - a very human scene depicting true love and not just sex.
"Don't Look Now" is a wonderful puzzle - eerie, tragic, human and until the last scenes, maddeningly hard to solve. When all is revealed, you want to go back and start again.
One last point: this is based on a short story by the great Daphne duMaurier. After she saw the film, she sent the director a letter saying how the couple in his film reminded her of a sad couple she once saw in a hotel and imagined why they were so unhappy - the real-life couple who inspired her original story. I think this shows how Roeg has given the film a real believability and humanity.