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    Swimming Pool

    Breast strokes

    The topless poolside lounging and sexual libertinism of nubile young actress Ludivine Sagnier is more of a draw than the underdeveloped plot and unengaging performances of "Swimming Pool."


    "Swimming Pool" is a disappointment.

    Directed by: Fran¨ois Ozon.
    Written by: Emmanu¸le Bernheim, Fran¨ois Ozon.
    Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mossˇ, Michel Fau, Jean-Claude Lecas, Emilie Gavois-Kahn, Erarde Forestali, Lauren Farrow, Sebastian Harcombe, Frances Cuka, Keith Yeates.
    Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux.
    In English and French with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    It stars Charlotte Rampling, who's fine therein, and is directed by Fran¨ois Ozon, who's usually fine, but this is the French director's first English-language film and I suspect something got lost in the translation.

    Ozon previously worked with Ms. Rampling, a 58-year-old actress who's still not afraid to do nude scenes, on "Under the Sand" ("Sous le Sable"). That 2000 film covered similar terrain and themes to those in "Swimming Pool" (Rampling played a woman, an English professor, vacationing in the south of France in order to come to grips with the death of her husband), yet there was passion and intrigue aplenty in that one.

    In "Swimming Pool," these elements are surprisingly absent.

    Rampling plays a successful mystery writer, Sarah Morton, who's struggling with her latest book (even though she claims not to be lacking for inspiration). Her editor John Bosload (Charles Dance) suggests she take a break and go stay in his summer home in the French countryside for a while, hoping that she might be stimulated by such an idyllic setting. Sarah takes him up on his offer and, sure enough, not long after arriving her fingers start clicking away on the keys of her Samsung laptop.

    Swimming Pool  
    But before long, an intruder rudely disrupts Sarah's peace and solitude. It's John's daughter Julie, who regularly uses the house as a place to crash (and to whom she brings a different "boyfriend" every night). Julie generally hangs around the place (topless of course) throwing the uptight, chiefly British Sarah into a tizzy. But Sarah slowly becomes intrigued by the lithe beauty sunning herself down by the pool and begins a new novel, the "something completely different" her boss had also suggested she might like to attempt.

    The film climaxes with an unfortunate twist — unfortunate because it's not significant enough to excuse the pedestrian storyline that precedes it. Sarah goes about her business with workmanlike authority. She types, drinks coffee tea/wine/whiskey/soda in varying amounts, eats hugely French bowls of yogurt, pops into the village, and pencil edits her manuscripts, all the while keeping a close and writerly eye on the tanned beauty who leaves her belongings — food, underwear, men — lying about the place with zero regard for the etiquette that shared space necessitates.

    There are some who will tell you that "Swimming Pool" is a richly rewarding, sexually tinged character study. Others might refer to it as a deliciously edgy murder mystery with Ms. Rampling at the top of her game. This, I'm afraid, is nonsense. Rampling is a magnificent actress but isn't given any opportunities to prove it in "Swimming Pool" — buttering toast is not Oscar-caliber material. The film isn't boring, because you keep thinking that something shocking is going to play out (and can ogle the invariably naked Ludivine Sagnier, who plays Julie, while you're waiting). But it doesn't.

    Here's a classic case of the ends not justifying the means.

    The first hint that "Swimming Pool" might have played better in French with English subtitles is when witnessing the editor/writer dynamics. These sequences are oddly stilted, as if screenwriters Ozon and Emmanu¸le Bernheim have no clue about the publishing business, an impression supported by the scene in which Sarah flings a first edition of her latest novel, appropriately titled "Swimming Pool," at John after he reads her post-vacation draft and decides it's not very good. "They loved it," boasts Sarah, referring to the competition.

    Alas I did not love "Swimming Pool." I hoped I would, since the preview makes it look like you're in for a psychosexual treat. But you're better off renting "Under the Sand" — a superior but still less than brilliant film — if you're looking for a Rampling/Ozon collaboration that's cool and conscious and calculated.

    Or deliciously edgy, even.

    JULY 19, 2003

    Reader comments on Swimming Pool:

  • swimming pool   from kat, Jul 28, 2003
  • Re: swimming pool   from UnkleTim, Aug 10, 2003
  • what was going on   from michael, Jul 29, 2003
  • Re: what was going on   from marc brandon daniel, Aug 4, 2003
  • Re: what was going on   from Fran, Aug 24, 2003
  • Re: what was going on   from Eric Roberts, Aug 26, 2003
  • Re: what was going on   from Renee, Aug 26, 2003
  • nice movie   from ifeanyi monye, Oct 18, 2003
  • Re: what was going on   from Dick, Aug 27, 2003
  • Not worth analyzing   from James Cheatham, Jul 31, 2003
  • In the Deep End, Beneath the Weird Surface   from Peter Wilson, Aug 15, 2003
  • swimming pool, not so clear waters   from Sindy, Aug 26, 2003
  • Re: In the Deep End, Beneath the Weird Surface   from Dominick, Sep 2, 2003
  • Re: In the Deep End, Beneath the Weird Surface   from ifeanyi, Oct 18, 2003
  • Re: In the Deep End, Beneath the Weird Surface   from aguynamedguyinTX, Sep 10, 2004
  • Butterworth a dim   from Dominick Antonucci, Sep 2, 2003
  • [no subject]   from v.s.gaudio, Mar 24, 2010

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