Thursday, April 18, 2013
Swimming Pool (2003 film)
Directed by Francois Ozon and written by Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim, Swimming Pool is the story about a murder-mystery novelist who travels to the French countryside to stay at her publisher’s house as she gets an unexpected visit from his outgoing daughter. The film is an exploration into the different generation gaps between two women as well as the similarities they have as one woman is trying to create a novel. Starring Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, and Charles Dance. Swimming Pool is a provocative and seductive film from Francois Ozon.
Seeking inspiration is something a writer must have when it comes to creating new material as the film is in some ways is about a famous British murder-mystery novelist in Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) who is trying to write the next novel of her series involving a detective. Yet, she’s a woman who is unhappy with the outcome of some of her work while having to compete with younger writers who can the attention of her longtime publisher John Bosload (Charles Dance). By taking his offer to stay at his villa in the French countryside to work and relax, she soaks up the chance to enjoy a sense of peace until she gets the unexpected arrival of Bosload’s daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) who causes trouble. Despite the tension between the two very different women, the two women do give something to each other where Sarah finds a muse while Julie gets someone to help after a night with a man has gone wrong.
The screenplay is definitely a thriller of sorts but acts more as a drama where it is about these two women sharing a villa as they don’t really know each other or want to do anything with each other. Especially since Sarah is a woman who had done her time as a young woman as she’s now middle-aged, bitter, and being usurped by younger writers. Julie is a young woman who is wild, likes to swim in the nude, have sex with various men, and is not afraid to get into a physical fight. Still, there is intrigue between the relationship of these two women where they share a few stories as well as interest towards a café waiter (Jean-Marie Lamour).
While the first two acts is about the relationship of these two women, the film’s third act is where the suspense comes in as it relates to not just a murder but also how to hide it as well as revelations about Julie’s mother whom her father had been estranged from for so many years. It would help play into the relationship between Sarah and Julie as the latter has been in need of a maternal figure. Yet, it would all help play into Sarah’s search for inspiration though its ending is very ambiguous as it ends up raising a lot of questions into what might’ve really happened.
Francois Ozon’s direction is quite straightforward for the most part in the way he presents scenes set largely in Southern France with a few scenes shot in London. Still, there is a degree of style to the way Ozon shoots some of his close-ups and medium shots to get his two leads into a frame. Even in playing up the element of suspense. There is also a sensuality to the film that can be quite serene at times but also a bit confrontational such as a scene of Julie lying on a chair outside as the café waiter stares at her as the two would masturbate to themselves. Yet, it is done with an air of subtlety that doesn’t make too graphic with the exception a different scene between Julie and the waiter in a pool. The film’s suspense has an air of mystery though its ending creates this ambiguity into whether anything that happened really happened as it mixes the idea of fantasy and reality. Overall, Ozon creates a very intoxicating and exhilarating film about mystery and the art of writing.
Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does brilliant work with the film‘s very lush cinematography for many of the scenes set in France during the daytime while using more stylish lighting schemes for the scenes at night in its interior and exterior settings. Editor Monica Coleman does wonderful work with the editing to create some methodical cutting and stylish montages for its suspenseful moments along with some rhythmic cuts for a few of the film‘s dramatic moments. Production designer Wouter Zoon does excellent work with the look of the villa that Sarah stays at as well as a few places in France as well as the office of John Bosload.
Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does nice work with the costumes from the more casual yet tightened clothes of Sarah to the more exotic look of Julie with the clothes and swimsuits she wears. The film’s sound by Benoit Hillebrant, Lucien Balibar, and Jean-Pierre Laforce is terrific for the way it creates an atmosphere in some of the quieter moments as well as some of the chaos for the scenes with Julie whenever she‘s partying with another man. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is very evocative with its low-key yet playful piano-driven score for most of the film while intensifying things a bit for its suspenseful third act.
The casting by Antoinette Boulat is superb as it features a small ensemble with appearances from Frances Cuka as a fan that Sarah meets on the train, Sebastian Harcombe as a young writer Sarah has to compete with, Marc Fayolle as the villa’s gardener, Mirelle Mosse as the gardener’s daughter that Sarah meets late in the film to ask about Julie’s mother, and Jean-Marie Lamour as the café waiter Sarah meets early in the film who is entranced by Julie. Charles Dance is terrific as Sarah’s publisher John Bosload who gives Sarah the chance to stay at her home while is a man who is hoping for Sarah to deliver another hit novel so he can make more money.
Finally, there’s the duo of Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier as they both give exquisite performances in their respective roles as Sarah Morton and Julie. Sagnier brings a liveliness to her role as a very vivacious young woman who isn’t afraid to appear nude as she uses her sexuality to get what she wants while exemplifying all of the attributes of a young woman who seems very troubled. Rampling is more reserved as Sarah by displaying someone who is lost and bitter as she craves for some peace while also showing she’s also a bit funny as well as being sexy for someone of her age.
The 2003 Region 1 DVD from Focus Features is released in two version in a theatrical and unrated cut where the latter shows more nudity and sexually explicit content. Presented in its 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio with 5.1 Surround Sound for English and French along with DTS sound and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The DVD’s extras includes a trailer for the film as well as trailers from other releases from Focus Features. Another extra that is included are four deleted scenes which all relates to Sarah in a scene where she arrives along with a scene walking around the locations, reading a book, and a conversation with Bosload on the phone.
Swimming Pool is a ravishing film from Francois Ozon that is highlighted by the performances of Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The film is definitely not just one of Ozon’s accessible films but also one of his more defining works in the way he brings intrigue and sensuality into an entire film while playing up the idea of what goes in the world of suspense. In the end, Swimming Pool is a remarkable film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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