Knife in the Water

Roman Polanski's 1962 feature debut got him the cover of Time magazine, got him an Oscar nomination, and got him the hell out of Poland. Over four decades later, Knife in the Water remains a marvel of malice and economy. Two men and a woman are stuck on a small sloop for 24 hours: a bourgeois married couple, and a poor young student hitchhiker. The outside world doesn't exist. It's a universe of three, where the primal force is male ego. "Show us what you're made of," the husband taunts the student. Every duty aboard the boat is an excuse for petty humiliation and one-upsmanship--tending the sails, coiling the lines, even holding a steaming pot of soup. The kid wants to leave, but they're trapped on a large lake and spend the night anchored among reeds. Also, he enjoys rattling the proud older man's cage. And more: The wife is young, bored, hot. Polanski elegantly frames his bickering players in tight, long takes. In his best works (here, Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion), he's an artist of claustrophobia and confinement. People are bound by class, marriage, physical space, and their own lies. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Jan. 16-22, 7 & 9 p.m., 2009

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