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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

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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4.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

If you're like me, when you go on vacation you have certain expectations. You may want peace and quiet, a place to dance all night, or both. You look for great restaurants with the local cuisine or you're content with Mickey D's, which can be found almost everywhere. In the back of your mind, you're hoping for something serendipitous, unplanned for, something that might even change your life and make this the most memorable holiday ever. Alas, such fortuitous occurrences are few, but you can hardly beat the way a few weeks in Provence changed the life of a London spinster as illustrated by Francois Ozon ("8 femme," "Sous le sable"). In "Swimming Pool," Ozon's first film primarily in English, a writer famous for a series of mystery stories, each book centering on a single inspector, is generously afforded a place in the French home of her publisher. The publisher (played by Charles Dance) who has made considerable money with the crime-fiction of the writer, is eager to get his writer's juices flowing, particularly when she hints that her writing is slowing down.

The role of the author, Sarah Morton, is performed by the 58- year-old Charlotte Rampling -a actress who gave a heartbreaking rendition of a breakdown in Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories," who made her debut in Richard Lester's fast-moving 1965 comedy, "The Knack and How to Get It," and who recently appeared in Ozon's "Under the Sand" an imaginative story of a happily married woman who is in denial after her husband's disappearance.

In "Swimming Pool," Sarah is delighted with the use of the house in Provence, glad to arrive during the off-season when she expects her muse to be pleased with the sunny days and country air. Her repose is upset when the publisher's lusty teen daughter, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) arrives unexpectedly has, a different man seemingly in tow each night, the party atmosphere threatening to trash her concentration on yet another detective story. Or does it? Perhaps this is Sarah's big chance to expand beyond the Agatha Christie-Ruth Rendell-Patricia Highsmith genre and knock out a novel about real feeling. Sarah may just secretly welcome the presence of this sexually liberated girl who could both loosen her up (she's described by Julie as having a broomstick up her butt) and to restore emotions that have been repressed for decades.

While "Swimming Pool" has its share of twists, particularly since a murder changes the picture into the likes of a Hitchcock thriller, the real joy is from Ms. Rampling who now in her late fifties has no hang-ups about showing her perfect body in the buff in a scene that marks her character's leap into a novel persona. Ozon's direction is taut, moving suddenly from one scene to another without the need for connective tissue. What gives the film a special lift is Ozon's merging fantasy with reality without the mistrust of audience that compels Hollywood studios to cast the former in soft-focus. We in the audience will try to guess what scenes are in Sarah's mind and which are actually occurring. The final twist which I'm guessing that only a few viewers will have predicted takes less than a minute, one of those moments in cinema that will knock your socks off.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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