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Soundtrack review: Don’t look now (Pino Donaggio – 1973)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Don’t look now (Pino Donaggio – 1973)

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“Don’t Look Now” (Italian: A Venezia… un Dicembre rosso shocking) is a 1973 independent British-Italian film directed by Nicolas Roeg. It is a thriller adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland portray a married couple who travel to Venice following the recent accidental death of their daughter, after the husband accepts a commission to restore a church. They encounter two sisters, one of whom claims to be clairvoyant and informs them that their daughter is trying to contact them and warn them of danger. The husband at first dismisses their claims, but starts to experience mysterious sightings himself. The score was written by Pino Donaggio.

Italian film music in general and especially the scores written in the 60s and 70s or 80s represents for me the pinnacle of romantic film music; there is nothing more beautiful and intimate than a score written by an Italian composer and I’m not even only referring to legends like Morricone, Donaggio, Rota or Cipriani; there is something in the Italian school of film music that’s unparalleled and I’ve been toying for years with the idea of launching a site dedicated only to Italian film music. Maybe I will someday. For now let’s focus on this score and on the opening cue “I Colori Di Dicembere (Laura’s Theme)” which is the vocal rendition of the main theme, another thing specific and delightful in Italian scores. It’s not my favourite voice Edda Del’Orso but Iva Zanicchi who sings with the same heartbreak and passion that’s common for the women of that country.

This story isn’t romantic or light, of course, but no matter what the topic you will find a romantic theme in an Italian movie score because it’s in the nature and blood of the composers to write like that. “Laura’s theme” is candid and “John’s theme (love scene)” is an even more innocent piano and flute theme; for me the sound of the flute is the ultimate representation of tenderness in a cue. That warmth is quite suddenly replaced though by ice cold chills in “Christine is dead” which is a dark string based cue that makes me think of Alfred Hitchcock movies. This duality works very well in “Don’t look now”: the romance alternates with the thick suspense and I get the feeling of a proper musical story.

Nothing beats the main theme though, “I colori di dicembre” (or “Laura’s theme”) which awakens every fibre of Italian music nostalgia in me. It’s everything I could wish or hope for, with love, passion and emotion to spare; I love how this theme blends into “Searching for Laura” which is a frantic string chase cue that gets my adrenaline pumping.

There’s really nothing I could ask more from a 70s thriller score, especially one written by Pink Donaggio; the standalone listening experience is as rewarding and intense as the movie itself with the mix of romance, tension and action. Even more than 40 years later the music stays meaningful and enjoyable; “Don’t look now” hasn’t aged a bit and discovering it today will be just as pleasant as listening to it in context for the first time.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 22 / 34

Album excellence: 65%

Highlights:
I Colori Di Dicembere (Laura’s Theme) (Vocal Version) (Iva Zanicchi)
Christine Is Dead
John’s Theme (Love Scene)
John’s Theme (Laura Leaves Venice)
I Colori Di Dicembre (Laura’s Theme I)
Searching For Laura (Pt.1)
I Colori Di Dicembre (Laura’s Theme II)
Searching For Laura (Pt.2)
Laura Comes Back
Dead End
I Colori Di Dicembere (Laura’s Theme: The Last Farewell)

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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