Swimming Pool (France/UK; 102min.)


directed by: François Ozon
starring: Charlotte Rampling; Ludivine Sagnier; Charles Dance
Swimming Pool
 
Bob G. says: "30 minutes into Swimming Pool you find yourself unavoidably engaged, much to your chagrin, given the lack of physical screen action. There's not a lot going on here, at least on the surface, but Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier are so compelling in their roles that you unwittingly get sucked into every mirage in their paths. Fracois Ozon establishes a deliriously heat-soaked mood of heightened awareness, ripe for trouble and rude behavior, all of which abound." 3 1/2 cats
 

Hilary says: "I must echo Michael's sentiments -- SWIMMING POOL is a delicious, sun-baked, languid suspense yarn.

"Charlotte Rampling is in top form as the brittle Sarah Morton. It was quite enjoyable to watch as her stereotypical English spinster came into conflict with Ludivine Sagnier's earthy, sensual Julie. I thought the costuming was perfect for their characters: Rampling in sunhats and sensible print blouses while Sagnier teeters along on platform shoes in the tiniest of garments, if wearing anything at all, beneath a mane of unkempt hair. (I particularly liked how her hair made her resemble a mermaid, as so much of the action revolved around the pool.) Gradually Sagnier's chainsmoking, acid-washed denim lifestyle invades Rampling's order and routines making for racy plotlines, both onscreen and in Sarah Morton's next book.

"I will be considering both Rampling and Sagnier when nomination time rolls around. One note for anyone else who enjoyed Sagnier either here or in 8 WOMEN, I recommend MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS, in which she plays a character halfway between Julie and the more innocent Catherine of 8 Women. I'll be taking Michael's suggestion to rent WATER DROPS ON BURNING ROCKS."

 

Laura says: "Director François Ozon (8 WOMEN, UNDER THE SAND) and his cowriter Emmanuele Bernheim (UNDER THE SAND) once again invite actress Charlotte Rampling into a fantasy land beside a body of water, this time to explore the creative process (although it could be argued that, as in UNDER THE SAND, loss is also an issue). This puzzle box of a film may have more interpretations than David Lynch's MULHOLLAND DR.

"Sarah is picked up from the train by John's gardener Marcel (Marc Fayolle), then quickly sets up her writing space in a bedroom overlooking the pool before visiting the village to stock up on the yogurt she seems to exist on. When John calls to check in on her, she tells him about new story ideas with the enthusiasm of a girl, but when she asks about his joining her, John quickly withdraws. The tension of a former, unspoken relationship hangs in the air.

"One night, Sarah hears someone entering the home and descends the staircase armed with a lamp like a character in one of her stories. She is infuriated to learn that the intruder, Julie, has a rightful place in the house as John's daughter. 'You're daddy's latest conquest' Julie assumes before Sarah informs her that she is alone in order to work. Sarah watches the nubile beauty swimming in the leaf-clogged pool and spies on her having drunken sex with one night stands. When Sarah brings copy poolside to edit, a topless Julie attempts a conversation, but Sarah, her gaze having lingered too long on Julie's midriff, bristles (Sarah's prickly nature was established in London, when she refused the recognition of a fan ). But Julie's debauchery has an influence and Sarah runs from her yogurt to a plate of profiteroles in town. She strikes up conversation with waiter Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour) who suggests she visit the ruins of the castle of the Marquis de Sade. Once Marcel cleans the pool at Julie's bidding, Sarah deigns to swim in it, then even invites Julie out for dinner, where she hunts for information about Julie's mother. A folder named Julie is added to Sarah's laptop desktop. After Julie surreptitiously reads some of what Sarah has written, she brings Franck home for drinks and an odd and uncomfortable triangle forms on a fateful evening.

"Ozon gives us reason to reinterpret what we've seen at the end of his film, but provides no easy answer. There are threads connecting Sarah to Julie's mother and to Julie herself. Franck, a connection between Sarah and Julie, may be a substitute for John and his influence over Sarah's creative output. The director and his cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (SEE THE SEA) use water, glass and mirrors to reflect and superimpose the women's images and unite them with a pair of identical poolside tracking shots. Julie's confusion about her maternal parentage is repeated when Sarah mistakes Marcel's daughter (Mireille Mosse, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN), who provides a vital clue about Julie and her mother, for his wife. And of course there's the transference that occurs as Julie's presence loosens Sarah's buttons while Julie eventually becomes more childlike.

"SWIMMING POOL is essentially a two character piece and Rampling and Sagnier are well matched. The sexy older actress cloaks herself with tweedy British intellectual imperiousness, her embers fed by whiskey. Her hooded eyes are perfect for the voyeuristic nature of the film. Sagnier is unrecognizable from Ozon's last film, where she played the tomboyish little sister. Here she's a wanton wild child, her long, blonde tresses coiled about her head like Medusa. She speaks with the air of rudeness bred by rebelliousness and insecurity until she softens with a child's need.

"Composer Philippe Rombi's (UNDER THE SAND) elegantly portentous score gives an edge to the visually calm surroundings. If UNDER THE SAND was Ozon's take on one of Polanski's psychological dramas and 8 WOMEN his ode to John Waters, with SWIMMING POOL, the director enters Claude Chabrol territory." 4 cats

 
Michael says: "After his musical extravaganza, 8 WOMEN, François Ozon returns to plumbing Charlotte Rampling's psyche as he did in UNDER THE SAND in SWIMMING POOL. This entertaining film is both mystery and psychological drama, and also examines the creative writing process. To top it all off, it's got a neat twist ending that is truly a surprise.

Rampling plays Sarah Morton, a succesful British writer whose Inspector Dalloway series is a long-running hit. When Morton becomes creatively frustrated, her publisher suggests she spend some time at his estate in the French countryside to clear her mind and perhaps become inspired to writer her next novel. Morton reluctantly agrees, and finds the solitude does in fact invigorate her creatively. Unfortunately, the tranquility doesn't last as her agent's daughter Julie, a promiscuous, hell-raising young woman played by Ludivine Sagnier of 8 WOMEN, shows up unexpectedly and changes the tone of Morton's getaway.

To say anymore would give away some of the intellectually inventive twists that truly lift make this film the treat that it is. Even without the clever plot, you've got two stand out performances from Sagnier and Rampling. Sagnier is light years away from the good-girl, tomboyish daughter that she played in 8 Women, and Rampling continues to show that there are still great roles for complex, older women that are sexy and smart. I guess they're just mainly in Ozon's films!

Ozon and cinematographer Yorick Le Saux use water (particularly the titular swimming pool), glass, and reflections to convey the changing roles the two women play. Ozon is truly becoming adept at succesfully creating a diverse and enjoyable body of work. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I liked the film after it ended, then loved it later after thinking and talking about it... unravelling the twisted plot. This one's definitely a hit, and one of the best fiction films of the year." 4 1/2 cats