Combustible Celluloid
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With: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz
Written by: Jerzy Skolimowski, Jakub Goldberg, Roman Polanski
Directed by: Roman Polanski
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Polish with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 03/09/1962

Knife in the Water (1962)

4 Stars (out of 4)

White Sail

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's hard to believe that Roman Polanski's feature debut came exactly 40 years before his Oscar-winning The Pianist, and his explorations of paranoia and male behavior remain refreshingly the same.

One of the greatest of all feature debuts, Knife in the Water concerns a husband and wife who stop to pick up a hitchhiker on their way to spend the weekend on their boat. They get off to a bad start and the two men subtly compete with each other throughout the rest of the trip -- with dire results.

Legend has it that San Francisco State University has a pristine 16mm print of this film in their library that can't be shown because the white subtitles disappear against the whiteness of the sailboat. Criterion presents the film in a beautifully watchable new transfer with clear, optional subtitles (it's the only feature film Polanski made in his native Polish).

DVD Details: Polanski insisted on one particular feature for this DVD: the inability to fast-forward. He ordered that control locked out so that viewers can only see his feature from beginning to end. Best of all, a second disc contains eight of Polanski's preceding short films, notably his award-winning Two Men and a Wardrobe. Even in these short films Polanski dabbled in the macabre and the paranoid. This is a must.

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