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SCREENING ROOM

A dive into chill 'Waters'

November 07, 2002|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

In a few short years, Hideo Nakata has emerged as a modern master of the horror picture. "The Ring," the remake of his 1998 feature of the same name, is a box-office hit, and his "Dark Waters" is sure to be ranked among the strongest offerings in the AFI Fest 2002, where it screens at the ArcLight Saturday and Monday at 10 p.m.

A compelling and stylish work of psychological suspense, it turns upon a familiar device: placing an already unnerved individual into an increasingly unsettling situation. Hitomi Kuroki's Yoshimi Matsubara is in the throes of a custody battle with her ex-husband over their 5-year-old daughter, Inuko. Thrown by the unexpectedness of the conflict, Yoshimi realizes she must come across as a strong, capable mother if she is to retain custody. Heartened that she's able to resume her job as a proofreader and find a good school for Inuko, she is less than thrilled by settling into an immense, rundown but affordable apartment house. Her own unit has been freshened up, but she fails to notice an ominous wet spot on her living room ceiling.

What ensues is pretty scary, yet everything that occurs serves to underline the transcendent strength of a mother's love for her child. "Dark Waters" becomes eerie and chilling but it is a beautiful, even poetic film of considerable accomplishment.

"The Struma," a superb documentary with the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller, brings together three men: David Stoliar, a Bend, Ore., retired oil company executive; Greg Buxton, a British computer programmer and deep-sea diver; and Simcha Jacobovici, a Canadian filmmaker, to bring to light one of the least-known yet worst civilian catastrophes of World War II.

On Feb. 24, 1942, the Struma, a steam yacht built in Newcastle in 1867 for an English gentleman and designed to accommodate 100 people, exploded in the icy waters of the Black Sea, costing the lives of 768 Jewish refugees, mainly from Romania and heading for Palestine. Stoliar was the blast's sole survivor. The paternal grandparents of Buxton were among the victims, and he became determined to locate the remains of the Struma in tribute to them. Jacobovici, of Romanian Jewish descent, was eager not to make "just another Holocaust documentary."

Jacobovici has succeeded triumphantly, for his documentary generates suspense on two levels: Will he solve the mystery of the explosion, and will Turkey actually allow Buxton to proceed unimpeded? The answers reveal how the ruthless political expediencies of the past continue to reverberate.

*

Screenings

"Dark Waters"

Saturday and Monday, 10 p.m., at the ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 Sunset Blvd. $10. (866) AFI-FEST.

"The Struma"

Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.,

at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 848-3500; Nov. 16-17, 11 a.m., at the Monica 4-Plex 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, (393) 394-9741; Nov. 23-24, 11 a.m., at the Fallbrook 7, 6731 Fallbrook Ave., West Hills. (818) 340-8710.

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