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Movie Review: Swimming Pool (1969)

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One of my favorite movies of 2009 was was Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno (L'enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot), a documentary that assembled footage from the French director's doomed 1964 production. Marvelously edited and with a spanking new but era-appropriate soundtrack, the most spectacular sequences were simply lighting tests of Romy Schneider:

I don't know about you, but I could watch that all day. So I thought, if Romy Schneider's test shots made for a five-star movie, I could watch her in anything, right?

Swimming Pool (La piscine), part of the five-film Alain Delon Collection, answers that question: positivement non! A 1969 vehicle for Schneider and Delon, who together were the Brangelina of their time, the picture is ostensibly a thriller but is one of the most boring movies I've seen in recent memory — and this is coming from someone who thinks Last Year at Marienbad is funny. Alainomy play Jean and Marianne (aka Jearianne), a young couple vacationing near St. Tropez. If you are still awake, I'm surprised. Because despite the magnificent specimens of gender that are Alainomy, there's only so much visual and dramatic interest you can squeeze from scenes of screen gods lounging tanned and glistening at poolside. Did I mention there's spanking? Oh, it is playful, as Delon strips a low-hanging branch from a nearby tree and lovingly slaps his topless Schneider on the back; first gently, then with gusto! You would rip off his shirt too, no?

This wouldn't be French without the promise of a menage-a-trois or even a-quatre. Column B is provided, if you can call it that, by the couple's old chum Harry (Maurice Ronet) and his teenage daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin, hot off her iconic duet with Serge Gainsbourg, "Je t'aime … moi non plus"). This May-September couple make for romantic rivals — and, in the case of Mlle Birkin, someone to count walnuts onscreen.

Not to toot my own horn as a writer, but if you've read this far, you've likely experienced amounts of heat and tension comparable to that I felt during the entire two-hour length of Swimming Pool.  There's a murder, but by the time it happened I didn't care who lived or died. Swimming Pool is sad proof that the beautiful people of any era made for a lot of baaad pictures.

J'accuse!

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About Pat Padua

Pat Padua is a writer, photographer, native Washingtonian, and Oxford comma defender. The Washington Post called him "a talented, if quirky, photographer." Pat has also contributed to the All Music Guide, Cinescene, and DCist, where he is currently senior film critic.