CINÉSALON: SWIMMING POOL (François Ozon, 2003)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Tuesday, November 18, $13, 4:00 & 7:30
Series continues Tuesdays through December 16
Charlotte Rampling is divine in François Ozon’s playfully creepy mystery about a popular British crime novelist taking a break from the big city (London) to recapture her muse at her publisher’s French villa, only to be interrupted by the publisher’s hot-to-trot teenage daughter. Rampling stars as Sarah Morton, a fiftysomething novelist who is jealous of the attention being poured on young writer Terry Long (Sebastian Harcombe) by her longtime publisher, John Bosload (Game of Thrones’s Charles Dance). John sends Sarah off to his elegant country house, where she sets out to complete her next Inspector Dorwell novel in peace and quiet. But the prim and proper — and rather bitter and cynical — Sarah’s working vacation is soon intruded upon by Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), John’s teenage daughter, who likes walking around topless and living life to the fullest, clearly enjoying how Sarah looks at her and judges her. “You’re just a frustrated English writer who writes about dirty things but never does them,” Julie says, and soon Sarah is reevaluating the choices she’s made in her own life. Rampling, who mixes sexuality with a heart-wrenching vulnerability like no other actress (see The Night Porter, The Verdict, and Heading South), more than holds her own as the primpy old maid in the shadow of a young beauty, even tossing in some of nudity to show that she still has it. (Rampling has also posed nude in her sixties in a series of photographs by Juergen Teller alongside twentysomething model Raquel Zimmerman, so such “competition” is nothing to her.)
Rampling has really found her groove working with Ozon, having appeared in four of his films, highlighted by a devastating performance in Under the Sand as a wife dealing with the sudden disappearance of her husband. Sagnier, who has also starred in Ozon’s Water Drops on Burning Rocks and 8 Women, is a delight to watch, especially as things turn dark. Swimming Pool is very much about duality; the film opens with a shot of the shimmering Thames river while the title comes onscreen and Philippe Rombi’s score of mystery and danger plays, and later Sarah says, “I absolutely loathe swimming pools,” to which Julie responds, “Pools are boring; there’s no excitement, no feeling of infinity. It’s just a big bathtub.” (“It’s more like a cesspool of living bacteria,” Sarah adds.) Ozon (Time to Leave, Criminal Lovers) explores most of the seven deadly sins as Sarah and Julie get to know each other all too well. Swimming Pool is being shown November 18 at 4:00 and 7:30 as part of the French Institute Alliance Française CinéSalon series “The Art of Sex and Seduction,” with the later screening introduced by filmmaker Ry Russo-Young and followed by a wine reception; the series continues Tuesdays through December 16 with Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake introduced by Alan Brown, Catherine Breillat’s The Last Mistress introduced by Melissa Anderson, and François Truffaut’s The Man Who Loved Women introduced by Laura Kipnis, all complemented by Jean-Daniel Lorieux’s “Seducing the Lens” photography exhibition.