Dark Water, the Remake

Saw Walter Salles' Dark Water remake. I like its focus on the mother-daughter relationship (something carried over from Hideo Nakata's original), but Jennifer Connelly still rubs me the wrong way (I haven't liked her since Labyrinth so many years ago), and I miss Nakata's understated style.

After watching two remakes of Nakata's films (The Ring and this one), I think I can pretty much see the difference: he's a master at establishing a quotidian world where dark things lurk in the corners. It isn't just that his film's beginnings seem so everyday (Salles captures the gritty street quality of New York, where this picture is set)--his lighting and mis-en-scene start out simple to the point of being banal, even flavorless; and he rarely if ever approaches his characters with anything closer than a medium shot.

Salles' camerawork and editing is livelier, more dynamic, and while I'd ordinary prefer Salles' style, in this case it weighs against him. He hasn't learned the lesson I suspect Nakata learned from Hitchcock (and which Van Sant failed to apply to his "Psycho" remake--well, he seems to have learned after the remake ): to create a bland, almost antiseptic texture against which he can introduce his horrors to greater effect.

Salles does elicit entertaining performances from John Reilly as a negligent real estate agent, Pete Postlethwaite as an even more negligent apartment manager, and Tim Roth as a fascinating (too fascinating--you're distracted from the main story trying to speculate about his life) white-knight lawyer. But the fact that I feel I have to praise the supporting performances instead of the lead and the overall film, well, that's not good. And the ending is ludicrous; I've heard of bad leaks, but what happens here looks as if it should have taken place in a barrel going over the Niagara Falls.

A final comment: Nakata's quiet brand of horror is fun and has generated a few international boxoffice hits along the way, but he's a softie and strict entertainment compared to Kurosawa Kyoshi, whose philosophy is at one with his style, and whose brand of horror can permanently dislocate your sensibility, or sense of reality.

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