The unexpected confection of an ending may be ambivalent, but it brings a big smile.

 SWIMMING POOL

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis        


            For the first half of “Swimming Pool,” Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is an intolerable grump.  An actress less magnetic than Charlotte Rampling would have lost the audience after a few scenes, but Ms. Rampling has the rare quality of mystery that is riveting in its silence.  That’s some victory, considering that most of her screen time requires her to stare in silence at what unfolds around her.  Sarah is a writer, an observer, and she manages to create the impression that she’s up to something.  At least we hope she is, because otherwise she is just plain rude and embittered.

                In the office of her editor John Bosload (Charles Dance), a newly anointed, prizewinning young novelist comments to Sarah, “My mother adores you.  She’s read all your books.”  Sarah has become yesterday’s news.  Once the toast of the light publishing world, she resents the attention that now goes to others while she writes in isolation – a piece of unattended dry toast – so to speak.  Confiding to John that she’s fed up with churning out one after another in her detective series featuring Inspector Durwell, Sarah accepts John’s offer of respite in his house in southern France. 

                From her apartment in England, darkly laden with books and paintings, she makes her way to the light filled world of a magical French cottage by a swimming pool that glows brilliantly in the sun.  Sarah may be fed up with her life, but the dispatch with which she sets up her computer and boots up to a blank screen suggests otherwise.  She throws open the double windows that face the sky and sits down.  The pages roll from her printer. 

                The exhilaration is quickly shattered by the arrival of John’s partly French daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) who blares her music, leaves a mess everywhere, and swims naked by day and night in the pool.  She also smokes, drinks, and brings home a variety of men for sex at night.  One wonderfully telling scene defines the two women.  Julie dives and glides effortlessly through a year’s accumulation of floating leaves while Sarah glares.  Finally Julie summons Marcel (Marc Fayolle), the caretaker.  “Marcel, the pool is too dirty for Miss Morton, please clean it.”

                By the time Sarah relaxes enough to accept her unwanted guest, even enough to smile, we know a seismic shift has taken place in her head.  She is a writer, after all.  Throw in familiar elements – a murder, a mystery, a handsome waiter, and an ominous Hitchcock type score, and the stage is set for something.  Under the subtle direction of Francois Ozon, it just happens that we don’t know what it is.  The unexpected confection of an ending may be ambivalent, but it brings a big smile.  You will be half way to the car before you figure it out, and if it remains a mystery, so much the better, so much the point.


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