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."
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
"Swimming Pool" is a disappointment.
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.
|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
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.
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
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
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
Or deliciously edgy, even.
|JULY 19, 2003|
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