Swimming Pool Movie Review
The drawn out prologue reveals Sarah Morton (Rampling) to be uninspired, having written a slew of Ruth Rendell-style mystery novels. Her publisher (Charles Dance) suggests the chateau, and Morton spends her lazy afternoons drinking in this new space. Things all go snafu when the publisher's horny daughter Julie (Sagnier) arrives. Sarah finds herself having to clean up after her new roommate, and having to spend restless nights listening to Julie screw every man in Luberon.
With a taste for perversion, Ozon explores strange sexual forays in all his films. Sagnier engaged in a lively foursome in Water Drops on Burning Rocks, and Rampling rediscovered her middle-aged sexuality in Under the Sand by toying with men. This time, by having two women that utterly loathe each other being forced to live together, you can bank on them either seducing each other, murdering each other, or bonding over some sick fantasy by the climax.
Ozon takes his own sweet time getting there, and while his images are strong and austere, he doesn't find imaginative ways of showing bitch women manipulating each other. Rampling slams down coffee cups on tables a touch too fast; Sagnier pouts and takes off her shirt. Their patterns don't change until a man is introduced (Jean-Marie Lamour, a John Holmes lookalike with a porno moustache--playing a hunky waiter). This masculine presence allows the two women to come together, like two scorpions.
Ozon keeps their agenda neatly hidden. Does Julie hope to bring Sarah out of her shell or does she wish to tease her into submission? And Sarah's coy attempts to milk Julie's life for a novel could be read as opportunistic or redemptive. But neither woman is particularly likeable. Julie's pain fueling Sarah's art is basically a way for Ozon to get around showing his dark fantasies -- he's practically wanking his way through Swimming Pool in a state of coiled excitement.
By stripping Sagnier at every opportunity, swimming in the nude, and even showing Rampling in an empowering au naturel moment, you can practically see the director salivating behind the camera. Unlike Hitchcock, who was forced to curtail his fetishes behind the movie code, Ozon lets it all hang out. Instead of presenting lascivious desire (that Godard criticized in Contempt, Imamura smiled at in Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, and Peckinpah raged over in Straw Dogs), Ozon indulges in it.
There's a Megadeth song entitled "My Business Is Killing... And Business Is Good!" Ozon might blanche at the comparison, since Megadeth won't be confused as selling art. They're selling an exploitative rush, and at least they're honest about it. Ozon's business is naked actresses, and, yes, killing. But it's sex and violence for its own sake, for a vicarious thrill. Ozon might cop out by saying that he doesn't judge his characters; but that's not really true. He's so excited by having two actresses doing bad things, and having a crush on them with his drooling camera. For all of Swimming Pool's qualities as cinematic entertainment (strong performances, crisp cinematography, a lush score), it delivers pristine goods that have no substance to them.
Ozon seems to have forgotten exactly why he bothered making a movie, except to derive his own pleasures from it. That's acceptable. But people rent pornography for the same reason, and it's cheaper than financing a film! Maybe other audiences will want to indulge in Ozon's world (though they'd be better off seeing some of his better sexual nightmares, like the extended short film See the Sea that said more with greater economy -- or the haunting mood piece Under the Sand.) It's well made junk food--and how did the bard put it? A rose by any other name smells as sweet. The same goes for manure, even if it's shoveled in a tidy and efficient manner.
Come on in, the water's fine.
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