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Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't look now

My dad and I went to see The Birds yesterday afternoon as part of a local theater's Hitchcock for the Holidays series. I had seen it years ago on video, but it's pretty cool on a big screen. The reel cut off abruptly at the end, and there were a few members of the audience who wanted to see what was going to happen next.

Hitchcock adapted the story from Daphne Du Maurier, whose novel Rebecca also became a Hitchcock classic. This year, New York Review of Books Classics published Du Maurier's short stories, including "The Birds," in the collection Don't Look Now. It's a great collection (with a great cover), especially the title story and "Kiss Me Again, Stranger." The latter is about a man who falls in love with a mysterious woman who takes him on a non-date to the cemetery. I still can't get the weirdness of the narrative perspective out of my head. It's clear early on that he's deluding himself at least partly, but the implications of that fantasy become troubling at the end. It's far creepier than Patrick McGrath describes it in the introduction--he says it's proto-feminist, but that focus on the female cipher takes away from the strangeness of the male narrator's behavior and self-presentation. This story and several others remind me of one of my favorite writers, Shirley Jackson, who is also really good with subtle dread.

"Don't Look Now" was adapted into a sexy film, but I was not impressed with the ending at all. It's the same as in the story, but what's horrifying and bizarre in print looks grotesquely comical onscreen. I did love, however, Donald Southerland's canal chase scenes because Kiefer Sutherland does the exact same thing, cut exactly the same way, in my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, Flatliners. I guess there are some similarities between father and son's chases after malevolent whatevers...

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Blogger Brette on Thu Jan 08, 10:47:00 AM:
My mom and I also watched this over the holidays. The movie does end abruptly a la the Sopranos, with Melanie and Mitch and all driving slowly away in her convertible amongst all the birds.

My favorite scenes: Melanie Daniels is speeding along the PCH in her convertible, with her tires screeching and the love birds leaning the wrong way into the turn; then when the horse and wagon comes crashing into the inferno in the harbor. Where did that horse and wagon come from? The neighboring set where they were filming How the West was Won??