Swimming Pool


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Swimming Pool
"If looks could kill, the audience would be dead."

If looks could kill, the audience would be dead. Francois Ozon's first English language film is breathtakingly beautiful. Ludivine Sagnier spends much of the time naked and even Charlotte Rampling slips out of something loose. As for the pool, even David Hockney has not portrayed a concrete hole full of water with such loving care.

The story, however, is user-friendless. Rampling plays Sarah Morton, a bad tempered, fussy, middle-aged writer of detective fiction, who is lent a villa in France by her publisher (Charles Dance), in order to kick start her next best seller.

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Her personality is so obnoxious that frustrated midwives with PMS would be a preferable dinner date. Julie (Sagnier) calls her "an uptight Englishwoman who writes about dirty thoughts but never does them."

The film concerns her fractious relationship with Julie, who turns up one night, claiming to be the publisher's daughter. They hit it off from the start like skunk juice in peach melba. All Sarah wants is peace and quiet; all Julie wants is fun and sex.

The pace is languorous, which means nothing happens for ages. Sarah plays with the keys on her laptop and looks daggers at the angelic figure in the pool as she swims. Julie gets pissed every night and brings back a succession of appalling men. The lives of these ladies take on a fictional aspect, as the plot dive-bombs into melodrama and absurdity replaces boredom.

There is a twist at the end which requires the whole film to be reassessed, not quite in the same category as Bobby Ewing in the shower, but close. By this time, you have drifted into a dream state, which involves buying a country house in France and living in paradise, or finding Julie at the poolside and saying, "Why waste yourself on those guys?", while she takes off her top (again) and sighs, like a girl about to breaststroke your fantasies.

Wake up and smell the bougainvillaea! This is a tease - sophisticated, sensual and silly. It's not real.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2003
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Swimming Pool packshot
A prickly English author looks for inspiration in a hedonistic housemate.
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Jennie Kermode ***

Director: François Ozon

Writer: François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim

Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Marc Fayolle, Jean-Marie Lamour, Mireille Mossé, Michel Fau, Jean-Claude Lecas, Emilie Gavois Kahn, Erarde Forestali

Year: 2002

Runtime: 103 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2003
BIFF 2019

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