Saturday, August 09, 2003

Swimming Pool
The first movie I've gone out and seen all summer. An enjoyable 'art film' treading familiar ground — repressed English vs. freewheeling French, sexuality, rivalry between an older and a younger woman, writer gets caught up in a story out of her own book. Definitely not for the easily offended and/or tempted. (Warning: in my opinion one little scene — 'real' or 'dream'? — crossed the line into X/NC-17.) Charlotte Rampling, whom I saw on screen for the first time in this, with her world-weary, worldly-wise hooded eyes and well-spoken, icy deadpanning, is still attractive in that Helen Mirren older-woman way. Her character seems meant to personify (caricature?) much of Englishness, good and bad. (Interesting mannerism I of course picked up on — in beautiful rural France at the holiday villa she keeps taking down the cross from above her bed, as if being in Catholic France is as uncomfortable to her as her young housemate's, ah, loud activities downstairs.) Ludivine Sagnier, whom the film depicts as 'all that', is serviceable in the part but not as, well, interesting as Rampling — her character is basically just bratty Eurotrash (and a little outdated with the permed hair and the denim, like a time-traveller out of the ’80s). Rampling's mostly subtle scenes with local hunk 'Franck' (maybe, just maybe, a hint of romance and not just lust?) are far sexier than all the explicit stuff Sagnier is supposedly doing — she could make S's 'Julie' jealous without really trying.

I can imagine how an American big studio would have ruined this: have all the locals speak English with exaggerated French accents instead of speaking French, throw a big, soggy musical score on it and make a female 'buddy picture' out of it — sort of a pseudo-Euro Thelma and Louise or Weekend at Bernie's.

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