Swimming Pool

As I see it, the French Pedro Almodovar, director Francois Ozon has long been fascinated by mysteries—especially ones filled with beautiful women, gorgeous scenery, psychology, kinks and perversion that pay homage to Hitchcock. Take for example his Hitchockian musical 8 Women released back in 2002, which starred eight of France’s most legendary leading ladies singing, bitching, fighting and having a ball. One year later, he wrote a film for two of his favorite women, Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The film Swimming Pool is an erotic mystery about an icy, British author who vacations in a sun-drenched French home of her agent, only to find her life turned upside down when her agent’s sexually charged daughter arrives, bringing home drugs and men around the clock. The two women intrigue one another as the film progresses and Rampling finds herself moving away from her P.D. James styled mysteries to writing a book about the desirable young woman of mystery. Originally Ozon told the website "Future Movies Online" that the younger character was written as a male but he felt the dynamic between the females would be much more fascinating and he’d promised Sagnier a sexy role since she’d played a frumpish tomboy in 8 Women and wanted a chance to unleash her inner Marilyn. Interestingly, as Roger Ebert pointed out in his review, Rampling used to have a career that was sexually daring in the 70’s and if the film would have been made thirty years earlier, she may have played Sagnier’s Julie. The idea of female rivalry and of the two both repelled and intrigued by one another is fascinating and some may read some lesbian overtones into the film (as Ozon notes in his research that most female crime writers in the vein of Agatha Christie had a tendency like Rampling’s character to drink too much, hide repressed lesbian tendencies and have a strong interest in perversion). However, I personally found Julie to be a character that reminds Rampling of the idea of youth and the dream of what it would be like to be completely sexual and impulsive (even though as the film illustrates, it can be quite a degrading path). The ending is a bit rushed, vague and unsatisfying, however I was probably easier to disappoint as an elderly woman standing behind me in a movie line told her friend the entire plot before I’d even seen it. Still, it’s a fascinating puzzle and the two leads (most notably Rampling as Sagnier seems to be there mostly just to be nude) are perfectly played. Rampling named her character Sarah after her sister who had killed herself at the age of twenty-three as a way to break the silence about the tragedy. It’s an interesting choice for homage to a sibling—without revealing too much, it made me wonder if the real Sarah was a writer had other similarities I can’t share without ruining the plot like the woman in the movie line.