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The Bottom Shelf #14

05.19.2005

This column should be featured around mid-May, therefore none of you can really tell how excited I am that FAMILY GUY is moments away from returning to TV. The Bottom Shelf will be on hold for a half hour, this is monumental. Upon the concluding, two fresh under-appreciated jackpots will be coming your way.

SWIMMING POOL (2003)
Directed by Francois Ozon
Starring
Charlotte Rampling & Ludivine Sagnier

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

SWIMMING POOL got my attention from its kick-ass poster, but the introspective and mind bending plot is what held it (and for those of you who have seen it, a few other things chipped in along the way *wink*). I heard the film described somewhere as “a movie that reveals itself 20 minutes after it’s over”. I really can't think of a better way to describe this head-trip.

The basic plot focuses on ultra-conservative English novelist Sarah Morton (Rampling), who is struggling to create her next Catherine Coulter-esque mystery novel. Her publisher John Bosload (Charles Dance) in turn allows her to spend some time at his countryside estate in France . Relieved from the stressful city life of London , Sarah seems relaxed and overjoyed in the house. Until John’s daughter Julie (Sagnier, who I hadn’t heard of but will certainly remember now) shows up. Julie (pronounced in a very funny French way) is a free loving sexpot who brings home different men every night and walks around the house naked, reason alone for you to see the film. The clash in personalities between the two leads is very entertaining, and makes for a great first two acts but the film then turns from casually amusing to very bizarre.

The final 30-40 minutes of the movie are difficult to thoroughly explain, but can best be summed up as a sequence of strange events linking Sarah and Julie together. Sarah switches the focus of her novel from another detective mystery to a story profiling a character similar to Julie, and becomes intent on analyzing her behavior. Without spoiling anything, a murder of a supporting character takes place and sets of a series of weird happenings. By the end of the film, Sarah returns to London to tell John she has taken her book elsewhere.

Now in a nutshell, the plot sounds pretty boring and simple. Yet the movie has a David Lynch type dreaminess to it, and the final scene makes you question the entire film you just saw (as evidence of this, try to make sense of the bickering on the IMDB board). From a technical standpoint the movie is extremely proficient, as the cinematography is brilliant and reflects the amazing landscape of rural France. There are all sorts of metaphors and foreshadowing evident, and I really suggest a second viewing to fully understand everything. Characters appear as more then one person, strange things happen for no reason, scenes are occasionally edited in an uncomfortable way, and yet once you “get it”, you realize how awesome that movie was. Oh yeah, and I mentioned all the nudity?

Favorite Scene:

Watching Sarah, an elderly republican Britt smoke weed with two young dancing French lovers while listening to techno music is truly a unique experience.

Favorite Quote:

Sarah: (referring to another author’s success) "Awards are like hemorrhoids. Sooner or later every asshole gets one."

Trivia Tidbit:

The film references a scar on Julie’s stomach. The actress had surgery a few years before the shoot to remove a benign tumor, so the scar was actually real.

See If You Liked:

SEE THE SEA, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, THE WELL.

SESSION 9 (2001)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring
Peter Mullan, David Caruso & Josh Lucas

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Director Brad Anderson (responsible for the super-cool THE MACHINIST and a few episodes of THE SHIELD) created this psychological thriller/horror confection a few years back. Going for a more cerebral/emotional scares then traditional jolts, SESSION 9 is a fairly new style horror film. After visiting the creepy locale of a mental hospital in Danvers, MA, Anderson and friend/screenwriter Steven Gevedon profiled the eerie building and created this film based on it. Initially, the movie is very promising and features a pretty fresh and compelling idea, it just fails to ultimately deliver…but more on that later.

Gordon Flemming (Mullan) is a struggling, hard working man trying to keep his asbestos-removal company in business. When offered with the job of clearing out the eerie building, he quickly agrees despite a pressing timeframe and conflict with his long-time partner (the ever irritating David Caruso). So the crew enters the hospital, and all sorts of crazy things await. Similar to BLAIR WITCH in that the group seems to be casually walking into disaster, SESSION 9 starts off with a bang, and I must say I was initially very entertained. Some of the suspense is top notch, and there are one or two very disturbing setups. Add to the list of perks the fact that Anderson and crew shot the film digitally yet optimized the 24 fps rate to seamlessly pass it off as film. This provides for all sorts of great deep focus and panoramic shots of the bizarre facility, and some sweet lighting effects. You really feel like you are there with the poor bastards.

Yet that’s about as good as it gets for SESSION 9. The finale is very ambiguous, and when Anderson finally pulls back the curtain we as an audience are disappointed. I walked away from the film thinking “ok…so what?” (whereas I am still scratching my head from SWIMMING POOL). Everything comes together and there aren’t many loose ends, but there just isn’t a compelling payoff. However, that alone shouldn’t be enough to prevent you from checking this out, as it certainly has a lot of stuff working in its favor. I’m not sure about the theatrical release of this film, but I don’t remember seeing it out. Definitely a Bottom Shelf fit, its flaws aside.

Favorite Scene:

Josh Lucas (a very underrated actor) delivers a pretty good performance, and is especially memorable when he sneaks back into the hospital after-hours to steal a stash of 19th century coins he discovered…uh-oh.

Favorite Quote:

The last line of the film is especially cool, I don’t remember it word for word but it was well written.

Trivia Tidbit:

David Caruso recently came forward and said he saw an apparition “pass by his window” while filming, but said he didn’t want to disclose it because he thought he would be made fun of.

See if You Liked:

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (the original), SLEEPLESS.

Now that I think about it, I’d really be interested in hearing from some of you about SWIMMING POOL, you know…interpretations and stuff. So drop me an e-mail when you can. Oh and FAMILY GUY was freakin’ awesome.

PREVIOUSLY:

Jules and Jim / Bully
The Apple / Troll 2
The Sweet Hereafter / Exotica
Happiness / In the Mood for Love
Blue Velvet / Living in Oblivion
They Live / Phantom of the Paradise
Summer School / Sleepaway Camp
George Washington / Tape
Say Anything / Battle Royale
Black Sunday / 29th Street
Blood Simple / Raising Arizona
Freaks / Hard Eight
Harold and Maude / Coffy

Source: JoBlo.com

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