What a thrill to go to a movie and not see anything that I expected. Restricted by what was available this time of the year, I chose something called SWIMMING POOL, a film I head heard nothing about. Frankly, it sounded like it had to be an empty-headed American summer pool-party flick. It was anything but. "Swimming Pool" was done in France, and shot mostly in English, with an occasional subtitle as needed.
It’s all about an American mystery writer Sara Morton (Charlotte Rampling), who’s done a successful series of detective novels for a London publishing house. She’s an attractive middle-aged woman, conservative in dress and manner, who seems to live out her fantasies in her books. But she’s getting a bit tired of the grind, and her publisher John, with whom she apparently has more than a working relationship, offers her his villa in France for a getaway, promising to join her there later.
She responds well to the place, the outdoor cafes and the people in the nearby village, and is inspired to start writing again. Francois Ozon, who wrote and directed the film, is taking his time, letting us all soak in the good feeling of the French countryside-and yes, I did wish I was there, too. But it can’t last-an intruder arrives unexpectedly at the cottage. It’s Julie, the publisher’s young daughter. Sara is livid. Her private space has been violated. Neither woman was aware of the other and it’s a struggle to get along. Julie, an attractive girl in her early twenties, favors swimming nude in the pool, and bringing home her paramours in the evening for a not-so-quiet romp in bed –activities that are clearly beyond the immediate experience, or approval, of Sara Morton. Though the atmosphere has completely changed, Sara does her best to concentrate on her writing. So what might develop here, you say?
Well, the movie proved to be both more and less than my imaginings. And that’s partly because it’s a story written about a writer of stories. Is what we see, really what we see? Or does it reside merely in the mind of the writer?
Ozon does a deft job of leading us by the nose here, through a film that is not packed with action, has no bright flashes or explosions, and no cursing or violence. It’s a bit of a throwback to art house films of a few years ago. The pacing is slow, perhaps too slow for some viewers. There is the presence of nudity and some sexually charged scenes. And there are plot twists that provide us with a surprising and yet satisfying ending. It’s meant for an adult audience as few films are today. And this reviewer was delighted to see it, if only by accident. "Swimming Pool" stars Ludivine Sagnier as Julie, Charlotte Rampling as Sara, along with Charles Dance and Marc Fayolle. It’s now showing in Bloomington at the Showplace East Cinemas.
This and other reviews can be viewed on our website at wfiu.indiana.edu, and reviewing the movies for WFIU, I’m Joe Bourne.