Swimming Pool is a sexy psychological thriller that is at all times grounded in the mundaneness of the everyday. And I say this because this was unmistakeably intentional on the part of director Francois Ozon. He uses the banality of the first half of the movie as a contrast and foil to the second half of the movie, which is full of odd mind games.
This movie proceeds at a snail’s pace, and the plot doesn’t really kick in until about the last half hour. Needless to say, this movie has a very specific target audience in mind: patient brainiacs. For example, during one beautifully subtle scene in the beginning, we find the protagonist, a writer of crime novels, taking out her computer from her suitcase and proceeding to plug in the power source. That’s all of the scene. It’s something we have all done, and can all identify with. And it’s also something rarely seen in film. Most films don’t have the time or the patience for such minor detail.
But life is about minor details. I for one enjoyed the first half of this movie quite a bit. That is, the half of the movie that had no plot. Go figure.
The second half is where Ozon tricks us in order to convert this movie into a “psychological thriller.” Personally, I didn’t think his trick worked that well. It has been done much more artfully in the past by other directors of note (Clouzot, Hitchcock, Shyamalan, Amenabar). So I didn’t much care for the second half.
The cinematography throughout the film was excellent. Lots of pastels contrasting with dark and bright reds, so as to suggest a dissonance in a place of seeming harmony. Shot in the South of France, the views and set designs are quaint yet distinctive, giving the movie a very intimate feel.
Finally, Charlotte Rampling is convincing and comfortable as Sarah Morton, and the lucious Ludivine Sagnier is simply brilliant as the sexually tenacious Julie. Their interactions, especially in the first half of the movie, are sincere and utterly engaging. Sagnier’s performance will not easily be forgotten.
I’d give the first half of Francois Ozon’s Swimming Pool an A, but the second half a C. Hence, the movie as a whole gets a B.
[View this author's blog at Unfashionable Observations.]