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Swimming Pool (2003)
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Review Date: August 01, 2003
Director: Francois Ozon
Writer: Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim
Producers: Marc Missonier, Olivier Delbosc
Actors:
Charlotte Rampling as Sarah Morton
Ludivine Sagnier as Julie
Charles Dance as John
Plot:
A frumpy, old British novelist, famous for writing a series of popular mystery books, is no longer inspired by her own ideas and decides to take her publisher up on his offer for down-time in his gorgeous French villa. Once there, the woman falls back into a nice writing groove, that is, until her publisher's daughter pays her a surprise visit. Needless to say, this addition to the household messes up the older woman's plans of relaxation, especially when the younger lady starts strutting around naked and banging all kinds of men around the house. A swimming pool ensues.
Critique:
I really liked this movie. It's a slow moving character-driven drama with hints of mystery and murder, but overall, it works because the two lead characters achieve a nice level of contempt, understanding and ultimately, chemistry between one another, enough to keep me interested throughout and wondering about it all afterwards. In fact, if you like fast-paced, straightforward, by-the-numbers movies, this film will likely not connect with you. Despite a seemingly basic plotline (see above), the movie is filled with symbolism, in both overt and covert form, and ultimately took me for a nice loop. It's the kind of film that makes you think and converse about it afterwards. Very well produced and accomplished. I might have liked it even more because it really is about a writer's journey to become inspired, to create and to break out of a block or slump, and while the entire story essentially unfolds much like a stage play between the two diametrically opposed women, it doesn't hold back on anything including sexuality, nudity, lesbianism, sensuality, drinking, smoking weed and the art of seduction (kinda like my own life but without any of that stuff-- save for the drinking). What grabbed me most about it was how different the two lead characters were and how well they worked off one another. Both actresses, Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier, were perfect in their contrasting roles, with Rampling really giving you a true sense of a completely pent-up British woman, while Sagnier brought the ideal blend of youth, sexuality and extraversion to her role (as well as great boobs...wow!)

The film starts off very slowly with several dialogue-less scenes meant to translate the older woman's lifestyle (think "art-house" flick), but once things moved to the gorgeous scenery of France, the sequences began to resonate at a higher pitch, with the antagonism between the two ladies, successfully developing both the story and the background of the characters. What was strange to me was that I really enjoyed the film up until its final act when a drastic event simply didn't "work" for me. I didn't buy the way that the characters handled that specific situation, but was still willing to forgive the film, since I had truly enjoyed spending time with the two leads up to that point. Then, a final revelation suddenly changed my opinion on all of that as well, at which point I realized that there was more to what I thought there was in the film, and quite appreciated the surprise (especially in this summer of the repeat). All that to say that if you appreciate character-driven stories, if you like watching movies that require you to think about them afterwards, if you enjoy small-scale films that scrape beneath the surface and ask for your participation in their unfolding and if you enjoy foreign films (this is a "French film", although most of it is spoken in English), do yourself a favor, skip the latest Hollywood blockbuster this coming weekend and go out of your way to find this movie playing in your town. I won't pretend that I completely "got" the film once everything was said and done, but I would love to watch it again and discuss my interpretations with others afterwards. Note how the film's lead character is best known for writing "whodunits" and how the vagueness of its conclusion relies on interpreting all of the events that came before it. One of my favorite films of the summer.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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