Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed as yet...
FRENCH director, François Ozon, is fast earning a reputation
for himself as one of the most visually accomplished and provocative
European film-makers of the moment.
His previous film, 8 Women, was
a visually sumptuous throwback to the 50s-style Technicolor of
the musical comedies of Vincent Minelli, that also kept viewers
on their toes with a contemporary whodunit storyline, while his
latest, The Swimming Pool, is another lavishly shot, but far more
intimate, psychological thriller, that provides an excellent showcase
for the two actresses who take centre stage.
Charlotte Rampling stars as established author, Sarah Morton,
a crime writer in the Agatha Christie mode, who reluctantly accepts
an offer from her editor (Charles Dance) to use his holiday home
in Provence to gain some much-needed inspiration, as well as a
Her idyllic retreat is thrown into chaos, however, by the arrival
of her editors lively and promiscuous daughter, Julie (Ludivine
Sagnier), who constantly disrupts Mortons enforced routine
with her wild-child antics and string of boyfriends.
But what begins as a stand-offish relationship quickly blossoms
into something much more between the two, as Morton uses Julie
as the inspiration to write a different kind of novel, and Julie
finds a mother figure in the writer - a situation which becomes
complicated by a possible corpse and the rapidly blurring line
between fiction and reality.
Ozons movie works on many levels, not least of which is
the chemistry between the two women, both of whom he has worked
Rampling, especially, plays the uptight Morton perfectly, moving
seamlessly from the introverted loner of early scenes, to the
liberated self-searcher whose dealings with Julie finally allow
her to break free from the niche she has carved for herself; while
Sagnier nails the requirements of playing the precocious temptress
with effortless ease.
Their relationship is consistently intriguing, and thrives on
its ability to surprise - particularly during the latter stages,
when they are forced to put their trust in each other in order
to deal with the real-life crime they suddenly find themselves
caught up in.
It is rare, too, to find a sexually-charged psychological thriller
that is actually worthy of both tags, given that Ozons film
plays up the eroticism well, without ever feeling tacky or voyeuristic,
while also appealing to the intellect at the same time.
The directors use of fantasy and reality is also well-judged,
forcing viewers to decide for themselves what, exactly, is true,
and what is imagined, and the conclusion is such that viewers
will be thinking about it for quite some time after the final
credits, particularly given that the movie is rife with imagery
(the swimming pool, itself, is viewed by the director as a manageable
and controlled environment, unlike the ocean, which requires a
person to shed their inhibitions before getting wet).
The deliberately slow pacing, particularly during the early,
establishing scenes (which find Rampling alone for great periods),
may deter some from unravelling its secrets, yet for those willing
to take the plunge, The Swimming Pool is a deeply satisfying experience,
and one which comes highly recommended.