Swimming Pool

Swimming Pool marks a return to quality filmmaking for writer/director Francois Ozon after the truly bizarre 8 Women. Well, there are only two women here, and they are fantastic. The stars, Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier have both worked with Ozon in the past couple of years, and that familiarity is part of what makes their performances so strong. Rampling (Spy Game, Under the Sand) is Sarah Morton, the author of a best-selling British series of crime fiction. She is working on her latest novel and finds that she has a huge case of writer's block. Her editor John (Charles Dance, Gosford Park, Jurji) suggests that she go to his house in the French countryside for inspiration.

She does, and loves it. The view is gorgeous, it is quiet, and she begins working earnestly. What she doesn't realize is that John's daughter Julie (Sagnier, 8 Women, My Wife Is an Actress) is also stopping by. Julie is everything that Sarah does not need. She is young, loud, and extremely comfortable with her sexuality, as are the different men she brings home each night. Sarah expresses her distaste for Julie, and gets the relationship off to a bad start. Since Julie is so different from Sarah, Sarah's natural curiosity takes over, and soon is she snooping around Julie's room, and spying on her.

Every day, Sarah goes into town and eats at a cafe where she finds herself increasingly attracted to Franck (Jean-Marie Lamour, Monsieur Naphtali), and their relationship comes to a head when Julie brings him home one night. Ozon (8 Women, Under the Sand) co-wrote the story with Emmanuele Bernheim (Friday Night, Under the Sand), and it's surprisingly complex for having such a slight story. It all hinges on the two women. From all appearances, Julie is the "bad" one. However, Sarah is the one who is more "evil." She is the one spying on Julie, and even worse, using Julie's life as a template for her novel.

Ozon creates a sense of eroticism and false serenity in this secluded house. Julie idles (often naked) aside the pool. The eroticism is what Ozon uses to drive the story forward. Sarah is the typical repressed Brit, who cringes at Julie's open sexuality. Part of what drives Sarah's curiosity is her jealousy about Julie's openness. It's something that Julie uses to control men, and Sarah wants to have this power. Nobody is around to bother them, aside from their mutual dislike of each other. Ozon lulls people into a complacency that he will intentionally shatter late in the film. He does this to show how extreme situations can change people, and make them do things that they would not normally be capable of. This goes for both Sarah and Julie.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, some violence, and drug use.

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