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Swimming Pool

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Swimming Pool

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier
Director: Francois Ozon
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: July 2003
Genres: Drama, Thriller, French

*Also starring: Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mosse, Michel Fau, Jean-Claude Lecas, Emilie Gavois-Kahn, Erarde Forestali

Review by Jerry Saravia
3 stars out of 4

In a summer season glutted with terminators, pirates, comic-book adaptations and fluffy chicks with kung-fu capabilities, it is always a welcome respite to see something truly unique. "Swimming Pool" is not an original film per se but its dreamlike power and gripping sense of sensuality surely rates this as one of the most mysterious films of the year.

Charlotte Rampling plays the old spinster role, that of a crime fiction novelist named Sarah Morton who's become indifferent to her popular detective novels. She has a meeting with her publisher (Charles Dance) about pursuing other topics of interest, perhaps something more germane to her personal side. He suggests staying in his French villa on the countryside as a place of solitude. Sarah flies out to France and becomes enamored with the beautiful weather and vistas. She lives in an area not far from Marquis De Sade's castle in ruins, and even gets to meet a sexy, younger bartender, Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour), who works at the local restaurant. But something threatens Sarah's peace in the form of a loose, sexual creature named Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), who is the publisher's daughter. Suddenly peace and tranquility have given way to Julie's nightly sexual exploits. The pool by the villa is used as a playground of emerging sexuality by Julie, who is often seen topless and swimming in the nude. All this causes great confusion and a sense of inspiration in Sarah whom you feel has been rejuvenated by this sexually carnivorous female.

It would be wise, as is often the case, not to dwell further into the twists and turns in "Swimming Pool." Suffice to say, they are of a subtle nature, merely appearing to us without calling too much attention. The director, Francois Ozon ("Under the Sun"), likes to toy with the viewer, immersing us in the atmosphere and the art direction and the performances before slyly shocking us with surprises. "Swimming Pool" begins as a woman's personal odyssey in coming to grips with her writing talent, until we learn that it has more up its sleeve. I will say that Ozon may have been possibly been inspired by two films, "Bitter Moon" and "Tristana." In the case with "Bitter Moon," Polanski's claustrophobic, sleazy drama, there is a scene where a writer (Peter Coyote) is impotent and sitting in his wheelchair. He observes two sexy people dancing before they segue to the bedroom. There is a similar shot in "Swimming Pool" where Sarah sits in a chair as Julie dances with Franck to a pop tune, and we watch Sarah become transfixed yet still unable to join in the fun (though she eventually starts dancing). Another scene has Sarah standing from the balcony of the house exposing her breasts to the caretaker. There is a similar scene in Luis Bunuel's "Tristana" where Catherine Deneuve exposes her breasts to a young man. These possible nods of inspiration help "Swimming Pool" with its toying sense of sensuality and sexuality.

"Swimming Pool" is a haunting mood piece with a finale that is ripe for endless discussion. The film's sensual, sexual overtones and its lingering rhythms are so titillating and unobtrusive that you will be swept away. Sagnie's Julie and Rampling's Sarah are two characters whom you will likely not forget by year's end. They bring such a shimmering, mysterious quality to sex and sensuality that it makes you wish Hollywood was just as imaginative.

Copyright 2003 Jerry Saravia

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