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Swimming Pool

Director: François Ozon's

France-U.K.| 2003. English/French dialogue. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 102 mins


François Ozon’s Swimming Pool is a sophisticated, unpredictable mystery about an uptight writer whose creative energy is released by an encounter with her polar opposite. Working in English for the first time, the French director has crafted an absorbing tale about the merging of fiction with reality, propelled by contrasting performances from Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. Rampling plays celebrated British mystery novelist Sarah Morton, a chilly, joyless woman. She complains to her publisher John (Charles Dance) of feeling frustrated in her work and jaded with writing about murders and investigations. Given that she appears to carry a torch for the man, Sarah takes Johns distracted promise of a weekend visit as added incentive and accepts the offer to use his house in the South of France.
The film’s look switches with Sarah’s arrival from the muted, drab tones of London to the warm colours and light of Luberon, where the writer relaxes and promptly begins work. But her tranquility is broken by the intrusion of John’s French daughter Julie (Sagnier), who arrives unannounced. Lounging topless by the pool and bringing a string of men home for noisy late-night sex, Julie’s brash attitude and lack of inhibitions make Sarah bristle, creating a wall of hostility between the housemates. But as Sarah begins observing the girl from behind windows and doors, her curiosity kicks in, unleashing sexual dreams. Offering an olive branch, the writer suggests they start again over dinner, and, when they do, she begins probing Julie for details of her life.
Playing a woman unaccustomed to letting down her guard, Rampling is reserved and brittle for much of the film, gradually infusing her performance with warmth and sensuality. But it’s Sagnier who really gives the film its sexy edge, looking sensational in various stages of dishabille and bringing a smart prickliness to the character.

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