Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water

“Troubled Waters,” an eclectic package of films currently streaming on FilmStruck, collects eight crime, mystery, and thriller stories set (at least partially) on boats. We’ve scuttled three of them, leaving five to set sail for dark waters and on-screen squalls.

Josef von Sternerg attempted to re-create the ambience of his 1930s Paramount period for this 1952 RKO production; there’s no way of knowing whether he succeeded or not, because the film was recut by producer Howard Hughes, with additional scenes directed by Nicholas Ray. Sternberg’s personality survives; what’s missing is the soul that might have turned the artifice and self-parody into poetry. Jane Russell is the ostensible star, though it’s Robert Mitchum’s facial planes that get the Sternberg treatment. With William Bendix, Gloria Grahame, and Thomas Gomez. 81 min. —Dave Kehr

The controversial, highly charged masterpiece (1960) that put Michelangelo Antonioni’s name on the international map. It’s a work that requires some patience—a 145-minute mystery that strategically elides any conventional denouement—but more than amply repays the effort. The ambiguous title adventure begins on a luxury pleasure cruise. The disconsolate girlfriend (Lea Massari) of a successful architect (Gabriele Ferzetti) mysteriously disappears on a remote volcanic island, and the architect and the woman’s best friend (Monica Vitti) set out across Italy looking for her, becoming involved with each other along the way. In the course of their epic travels, Antonioni paints a complex portrait of a crisis in contemporary values and relationships. His stunning compositions and choreographic mise en scene, punctuated by eerie silences and shots that linger expectantly over landscapes, made him a key Italian modernist director of the 50s and 60s, perhaps rivaled only by Rossellini. This haunting work—the first in a loose trilogy completed by La Notte and Eclipse—shows him at the summit of his powers. In Italian with subtitles. 145 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Purple Noon
A very elegant and watchable 1960 French thriller starring Alain Delon in his prime, this film was adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley by director Rene Clement and screenwriter Paul Gegauff, best known as Claude Chabrol’s key script collaborator in the 60s and 70s. The Hitchcockian theme—transference of personality—is given almost as much mileage here as in Hitchcock’s own Highsmith adaptation, Strangers on a Train, as Delon decides to take over the identity of a spoiled, wealthy playboy he’s been hired to bring home to his father. Henri Decae’s color cinematography is dazzling, and the Italian and Mediterranean locations are sumptuous. With Marie Laforet, Maurice Ronet, and Playtime‘s Bill Kearns. 118 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

Knife in the Water
Written with Jerzy Skolimowski (Moonlighting), this 1962 production was Roman Polanski’s first feature film, and there are those who would still call it his best. A middle-aged married couple, intrigued by a young blond hitchhiker, invite him to spend a weekend on their yacht. The sexual tensions build slowly and subtly, and when they explode into violence, it seems to be the desired result. With Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, and Zygmunt Malanowicz. In Polish with subtitles. 94 min. —Don Druker

Night Moves
Released in 1975, near the end of Arthur Penn’s most productive period (which began in 1967 with Bonnie and Clyde), this haunting psychological thriller ambitiously sets out to unpack post-Watergate burnout in American life. Gene Hackman plays an LA detective tracking a runaway teenager (Melanie Griffith in her screen debut) to the Florida Keys while evading various problems of his own involving his father and his wife. The labyrinthine mystery plot and pessimistic mood suggest Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, and like them screenwriter Alan Sharp has more than conventional mystery mechanics on his mind. One of Penn’s best features; his direction of actors is sensitive and purposeful throughout. With Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, and James Woods. 95 min. —Jonathan Rosenbaum