After losing her virginity, Isabelle takes up a secret life as a call girl, meeting her clients for hotel-room trysts. Throughout, she remains curiously aloof, showing little interest in the encounters themselves or the money she makes.
A fashion photographer with terminal cancer elects to die alone, preparing others to live past him rather than prolong the inevitable with chemotherapy or be smothered in sympathy by those who know him.
Sarah Morton is a famous British mystery author. Tired of London and seeking inspiration for her new novel, she accepts an offer from her publisher John Bosload to stay at his home in Luberon, in the South of France. It is the off-season, and Sarah finds that the beautiful country locale and unhurried pace is just the tonic for her--until late one night, when John's indolent and insouciant French daughter Julie unexpectedly arrives. Sarah's prim and steely English reserve is jarred by Julie's reckless, sexually charged lifestyle. Their interactions set off an increasingly unsettling series of events, as Sarah's creative process and a possible real-life murder begin to blend dangerously together. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Charlotte Rampling's character Sarah is named after her sister, who killed herself at age 23. She told The Guardian, "I thought that after such a very long time of not letting her be with me that I would like to bring her back into my life." See more »
She never presses the space bar while typing. See more »
Alluring and Deceptive, Beautifully Spare, Sometimes Slow
Swimming Pool (2003)
All I had heard before recently viewing Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool is that the lead actress, Ludivine Sagnier, was searingly sexy. Well, if that's what you want in a movie, you might agree. But it lowered my expectations, nearly to the point of not watching it. In the end, Sagnier's character is mostly coy and bratty, and her nudity, in France around her own very private swimming pool, shouldn't really be an issue-- except maybe for the viewer. For me, there was sometimes a mismatch in my head between watching the actress and watching the character, and if this is a flaw in some movies, here, in some basic way, it ties into the intention.
This is an odd starting point, for sure, but it is Sagnier's brazen outwardness that makes the more complex role played by Charlotte Rampling take on interest. How else to portray the theme of a woman who uses her body and her confidence to seduce the other characters in front of an older woman who wishes she could do the same? Swimming Pool really isn't about sex, but it absolutely is about the appearances that lead to sex--of being sexy, to put it a little stupidly--and Rampling increasingly takes on the role of viewer within her own character, and she ends up as perplexed as we do. All to good effect.
The minimal plot is about the failure by a successful novelist to see alluring from allusion, fact from fantasy. It's about storytelling, fiction, and ultimately fear of failure. The reconstruction of the past becomes the inner confusion in the mind of the main character, a charming and effective Rampling playing a novelist who was once, by all the hints, the very seductress suggested by the younger woman.
This is certainly a film worth watching. For some it will seem willfully confusing to the point of manipulation--the viewer is fooled and taken for a ride, and it feels confusing for the sake of confusion. For others it will seem endlessly mysterious and clever, even if requiring a kind of blindness to certain narrative conflicts (which may or may not be logically resolved by the end--I watched parts a second time to check). Right from the start there is an ingenious mismatch of facts that you start to brush off, and when things develop in ways I don't dare suggest for fear of ruining it, these clues grow in meaning. It will certainly be great for discussion, heated or not, and that's a sign (for me) of a good experience, though not necessarily a superior movie.
It is notable how economical the filming is--the setting is limited, the characters few, the range of situations reasonable and not requiring trickery or effects. And it comes down to Rampling, above all, holding the psychology together. It shows how little you need to take a good plot idea and flesh it out, sexist voyeurism or not.
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