Last night I attended a screening of Knife in the Water: an unrestored 35mm print complete with scratches, pops, blurry subtitles and mono sound. It was fantastic. The first time I saw Knife in the Water was on TV in the 1970s, on TVNZ's "classic film" slot (remember when TV was like film school?); the second was on VHS in the 1980s. Watching it this time I was struck by how complete it is, structurally and tonally, and the technical achievement of its storytelling. There's a scene where the young man swims out and hides behind a buoy on a calm lake: a conceptual stretch, but the director and DOP completely sell it. The yacht is a tiny physical space but after even a few minutes the dramatic possibilities have already become vast. When the three characters finally sit down inside the cabin around the tiny folding table, they might as well be in a ballroom scene. There's so much going on.
You couldn't make Knife in the Water now. You wouldn't be allowed.