Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Don't Look Now: A Frogman in a Canal on Sunday

A scuba diver--just visible above the gondolier's hat--in a canal near the church of I Frari
It's not often in the course of going around Venice that I find myself reminded of the Nicholas Roeg/Julie Christie/Donald Sutherland film Don't Look Now, at least not during the day. For while the city is, sadly, far less populated these days, the buildings--including famous ones such as the "jewel-box" church of Miracoli--tend to be far better maintained, their facades nowhere near as sooty as they are in the 1973 film. Nor is the city saturated in the eery brown and pea-soup green look of  cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond's Venice.

A frame from the 1973 film Don't Look Now
But Sunday, on the way to a kids' Carnevale party in Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio, Sandro and I happened upon a fire boat in a canal near the church of I Frari, its crew focused on a scuba diver in the water nearby, and I flashed back (though with nothing like the trauma involved in Donald Sutherland's flashbacks in the movie) to a scene in the film involving a scuba diver. (Actually two scuba divers, as you can see in the still at right).

Considering it's a corpse that is brought out of the water in the film, I wasn't sure we should linger and watch what the firemen were busying themselves about. But we have a friend in the fire department here and based upon what he's told me it's much more likely the Venetian FD is called upon to bring a cat (or iguana, as you can read here: http://some-tails-of-venice-fire-department) down out of a tree than a corpse up out of the water.

So we stuck around and, as happens anytime you stop and look at anything in Venice, other passersby stopped and watched, too. (Try it: people are so primed to look in Venice that you need only stop off to one side of a tourist thoroughfare, stare at a blank wall, and you'll soon have company). Then a gondoliere with his fares arrived and, finding his usual route blocked by the fire boat, stopped and watched. Then another gondoliere and his passengers, who also was told to stop by the firemen--as the water taxi in which Sutherland rides in another scene in the film is blocked by police detectives in a small canal.  

After a few minutes the two gondolieri got tired of waiting and set off in the direction they'd come from. There was still no indication of what the firemen and scuba diver were up to. There was nothing happening at all, really, as far as we could see, except for the frogman disappearing beneath the water for short periods of time, then reappearing. Sandro wanted to get to his kids' party and I'd gone through whatever frisson was available to me in watching a scene in real life that recalled a scene in a film.

How much of what we are able to see, or notice, or recognize, or value is determined by what we've seen before? Almost everything, I sometimes think, even if the precursor is a cinematic scene of death and you have, in the present, your vibrant child beside you.

And so we resumed our course to the party, to a small ragtag eruption of life in a city of art.

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