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627 of 690 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tension and eroticism is experienced through the eyes
This film creeps up on you and is absolutely spellbinding. It's the simple story of an aging mass-market crime-fiction writer called Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) who rambles off to the French countryside to find relaxation and hopefully inspiration for her next-in-the-series mystery book. While staying at her publisher's luxurious yet quaint summer retreat, she is...
Published on August 8, 2003 by J. J. Sargent

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a genuine head scratcher
***1/2 One of the marks of a truly great performer is the ability to appear alone on screen for long periods of time - without the aid of other actors or even dialogue - and still create a fully-rounded, easily recognizable character, using nothing more than gestures, body language and facial expressions. Charlotte Rampling achieves just that sort of magic in "Swimming...
Published on April 18, 2004 by Roland E. Zwick


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627 of 690 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tension and eroticism is experienced through the eyes, August 8, 2003
By 
J. J. Sargent "jesteratsnetnet" (Waterbury, CT United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This film creeps up on you and is absolutely spellbinding. It's the simple story of an aging mass-market crime-fiction writer called Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) who rambles off to the French countryside to find relaxation and hopefully inspiration for her next-in-the-series mystery book. While staying at her publisher's luxurious yet quaint summer retreat, she is confronted by his young daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier). Subsequently, all sorts of wild, unpredictable mischief ensues as the prim and proper Englishwoman clashes with the sexually carefree vixen, who evolves into an unexpected muse to the older woman.
My pal Oscar and I have spent the summer watching a number of French films, and one thing we both have learned and agree on is that for the most part, unlike most mainstream American films, they are mostly unpredictable. SWIMMING POOL is no different. Just when I thought I had it figured out, a number of odd plot twists move the narrative down an unsettling and unforgiving path until a sensitive and poignant ending reveals tragic truths about life, getting old, and the whimsy of youth that can be difficult for the young to face but which in many ways are empowering to those getting on in the years. If the film instructs anywhere, it is in the wisdom that we are only as old as we feel.
Expect tantalizingly erotic moments, mostly surrounding Ms. Sagnier's natural sensuality. There's plenty of eye-candy here, and in the viewing, one cannot help but feel strangely connected to the voyeuristic tendencies exhibited by Sarah as her dismal stoicism slowly disintegrates. Indeed, much of the film's tension and eroticism is experienced through the characters' eyes.
Ernest Hemingway said, "I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen." Surely the realm of the author is also to look, and more importantly, to see, as sharply illustrated by Sarah Morton's experience. In the end, her book may be the better for it -- to the possible chagrin of her publisher. Thus in some way, the film has much to say about the way literature is produced (through a "sexual" creative act) and how authors are oft times stripped of soul, reduced to rote formula, marketed, sold and neglected in pursuit of the next best selling author down the pike. In the film, Sarah attempts to transcend this trend through her collision with the young Julie (and in her fictional portrayal in the book she is writing).
Expect to be somewhat dismayed by the ending, but give it a moment, put the pieces together and it will all make sense. It's shear pleasure to enjoy a film these days that doesn't fill in the blanks for the audience, and this little gem is a clear winner. The fine acting betrays the taint of sentimentality. The sublime beauty and vivid verisimilitude of the setting and cinematography enhance the overall cinematic experience, and in more than one instance will leave the viewer breathless.
Some might complain that the film seems to meander, but this is true of many French films I've seen. This one is no different. Rather than commit to a rigid narrative form, the film appears more like a painting, with rich textures and colors folded onto the canvas in layers. Each scene builds on the last, every moment touches the next. The film is an experience as much as it is a story.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a theory, September 13, 2003
By A Customer
A theory: The writer made up the whole story. She does indeed take the house in France, and maybe makes phone calls to the editor, which he ignores, but staring at the swimming pool from her window gives her another idea for a book. I think she's sick of herself, her books and her readers. (Think of her reaction in the editor's office when the other author says his mother can't wait for her next book. Also on the subway she doesn't acknowledge that she's the author of the book the pudgy middle-aged lady is reading.)
In my opinion, the characters: Julie, the waiter, all those men; the situation: the murder, the diary, the story of Julie's mother, the editor as a libertine - all made up. She includes herself in the story, acts it out in her mind, and what we see is the acting out. She'd rather be the person she portrays herself as. Know what I mean? She makes herself sexier and more attractive (remember how pleased she was that the waiter preferred her to Julie?). She makes herself clever and heroic when she helps Julie cover up her crime. She makes herself more maternal when she comforts Julie and understands the loss of her mother. Julie trusts her even when she finds out she's read her diary. I think she's miffed at her editor over perceived slights and doesn't think he respects her talents except in a limited way. Even in the end, she's very pleased with her new book and knows it's her best by far, but he likes the steady cash cow. She knew he would which is why she gave it to another publisher, although she'll give him her next Inspector So & So book.
The biggest clue to me was at the end in the editor's office. He's read the book and although he doesn't care for it, is not upset or furious which he would have been if it had really been about his daughter; if he had recognized himself as the creepy, absent father, and included his wife's story, which he supposedly had read and thought was destroyed. He doesn't react because he doesn't see any resemblance between himself and the people in her story because there is none. And of course in walks cute, pudgy little Julia, and by the way they greet each other you know there's a good relationship between them.
The author looking puzzled at the end is either a ploy to throw us off, or her musing for a moment on the contrast between her Julie and his Julia.
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192 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pool of Blood, July 4, 2003
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Intelligent, expertly written, extremely well acted and story-lined for the adults, "The Swimming Pool" is Francois Ozon's first film in English. Ozon has no trouble maneuvering his way around and into a difficult, non-linear story, especially after seeing his "Under the Sand" and "8 Women." And he proves it once again here.
Charlotte Rampling plays Sarah Morton, a successful English detective novelist who is experiencing a bad case of writer's block. Her publisher, John Bosload (Charles Dance) offers her his French Country home for a vacation to re-energize her writing juices. And it works as Sarah begins a new book. But then Bosloads daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) shows up with the nubile sex appeal of a young Brigitte Bardot. And basically all hell breaks loose.
In her early scenes with Bosload, Rampling plays Sarah with an outward cool, yet it is obvious she is repressing a strong attraction to him. At this point Rampling is the picture of English spinsterhood: all bottled up in a buttoned to the neck cardigan and cinched up in sensible shoes. But when Julie arrives on the scene with her gorgeous, hair, eyes and body, Sarah cannot help herself it seems as she spews a ghastly amount of venom on her. For Sarah, Julie is not only a disturbance; she's an interloper, not only of her writing but also of her placid, solitary life. Julie is alive, vibrant, and outwardly sexual: all the things that Sarah isn't. It is reminiscent of those nature films in which the reigning, older Lioness must prove her superiority by clawing and humiliating the younger Lioness. Both Rampling and Sagnier go at each other in such a fury and with such conviction that you can feel the undeniable and tangible heat of all the passion, hate and jealousy emanating from their scenes together.
Ozon calls upon several other films for inspiration but as Sarah becomes more interested in Julie as a subject for a book, he calls upon Bergman and specifically "Persona"
and it's story of transferred personalities and character traits.
"The Swimming Pool" is a sly, immensely enjoyable yet persuasively adult film. It is also a testament to the sterling talents of Francois Ozon, Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get Out Your Speedos and Dive In, December 8, 2004
By 
V. Marshall (North Fork, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
If you love a good mystery and a few titillating shots for good measure this French film will knock your Speedos off.

Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is a mystery writer who specializes in solving murder plots but she has become disenchanted with her direction and with her unrequited relationship with her publisher. His suggestion is that she takes some time away and re-think her concepts so she is whisked away to his beautiful home in Southern France. To Sarah's surprise and disappointment her publisher never visits but his incorrigible daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) does. Sarah discovers that Julie is hiding a past that has caused her to be sexually promiscuous and irresponsible but Sarah is drawn to her youthful vigor and experimentation. Let the games begin! Sarah discovers a new avenue to pursue in her writing and Julie seeks the approval of a mother she lost. Together the women form bonds that cross a few lines and create disaster.

Yet another French film has succeeded in stumping the typical American audience who it seems gets lost behind in the nudity and spectacular flaunting of the beautiful Sagnier. But it's the story that is more impressive here. French director Francois Ozon has created a visually stunning film that seduces with much more than a few breast shots. Well written and complex this movie will fool you until the very end. To truly get what you have just witnessed it requires a few viewings and a mind that doesn't get lost on a naked body here and there. I found the story to be as brilliant as this film was hyped up to be and I can't imagine how anyone could find it disappointing. But the French don't need a stuffed Speedo to be brilliant; their cinematic seduction arrives in a much more subtle way... so dive in and enjoy a little swim with a filmmaker who knows what he is doing.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Conversation Provoking Speculation--Beware SPOILER!, January 19, 2004
Like a typical art house film, this offering from director, François Ozon meanders a bit, giving us a slice of the life of Sarah Morton, a successful crime fiction author as she foregoes her busy London writer's block for the needed tranquility of the South of France. We watch Sarah perform little things with little dialogue and get the impression that she lives a routine where most of her desires are repressed by her own rigidity. We get a glimpse of her life in London with her father and a sense that Sarah's only outlet may be some secret drinking. We feel her yearning for something else, perhaps she feels she is destined for better things as a writer besides financial success. She settles into her new environment quickly, and just as immediately begins a new manuscript. Happily preoccupied, her thoughts of writing something a little different are back-burnered until the advent of her publisher's daughter--Julie.

Julie embodies everything that Sarah is not. Her young vivacious, and blatantly sexy persona instantly provoke Sarah to bristling hostility---after all, her peaceful interlude has been disturbed; the routine is broken and Sarah finds that she can no longer write her usual police procedural. Instead, she begins to explore Julie, at first visually as Julie quite candidly and literally bounces about the villa in half-naked splendor and then with her other senses, as Julie loudly proclaims her enjoyment of the sexual pleasures attained when she brings home a different man every night and replaces Sarah's bland yogurt and diet Coke with palate pleasing cheeses, foie gras and the region's best wine. The more Sarah learns about Julie, the more mystery she uncovers and busily records in a new manuscript with the writer's typical deft enjoyment---what is the situation between Julie's father and mother? What is the scar on Julie's abdomen? What's this about a car accident involving Julie and her mother? Why does she come home with a black eye? And why does she keep replacing the crucifix above Sarah's bed?

At the point in the film when Julie secretly reads the working manuscript, the two characters of Julie and Sarah seemed to me to merge into one. They both romance a waiter from the nearby village and when Julie confesses to killing him, Sarah does not blink an eye, but rather aids her in getting rid of the body and diverting the attentions of any suspicious outsiders. At this point the film rapidly draws to its conclusion. The action becames improbable and strains the viewer's ability to accept it all as credibile. We feel as if we we have been drawn into a rather implausible plot and are expected to believe it. When Sarah returns to London and presents her publisher with the finished book---supposedly about his highly promiscuous murdering daughter, he doesn't even bat an eye. When Sarah, encounters Julia, the publisher's daughter at the film's end, we discover that Julie and Julia were not at all the same person. When the credits role, our reaction is HUH? accompanied by a lot of head-scratching.

But, what if Julie was just a character that Sarah dreamed up in her head, what if some of Julie's personality were intermingled with Sarah's own life--her own past and present relationship with her father and her mother. What if a lifetime of repression was allowed a voice crying out from the body of a ripe teenager? Or perhaps all the unanswered questions about Julie's past and her troubled present were just plot devices, red herrings and dead-ends that all writers encounter as they work out a story. Either way, what if that magically creative once-in-the-lifetime story suddenly took on a life of its own and allowed itself to be written down?

This is all speculation, but I believe that to a degree this is what the Swimming Pool alludes to: the creative process likened to taking a plunge in a deeper, less safe end of the pools we have all created for ourselves.

Well worth watching with someone you can discuss it with later!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a genuine head scratcher, April 18, 2004
By 
This review is from: Swimming Pool (Unrated Version) (DVD)
***1/2 One of the marks of a truly great performer is the ability to appear alone on screen for long periods of time - without the aid of other actors or even dialogue - and still create a fully-rounded, easily recognizable character, using nothing more than gestures, body language and facial expressions. Charlotte Rampling achieves just that sort of magic in "Swimming Pool," an odd little psychological thriller that makes "Adaptation" look like a model of clarity, coherence and comprehensibility in comparison. For the first twenty minutes or so, Rampling has the screen virtually all to herself and she definitely makes the most of the occasion. She plays Sarah Morton, a successful author of murder mysteries who's become bored with the restraints of her genre and now feels the need to branch out and try her hand at different and more rewarding types of writing. When her publisher offers her his villa in France as a place to get away and do some writing, Sarah jumps at the opportunity. Unfortunately, after only a few days there, Sarah finds her peace and solitude shattered by the unexpected arrival of her publisher's nymphomaniac daughter, Julie. Although there is initially a great deal of tension between the two women, a bizarre symbiotic relationship eventually develops, with Sarah secretly using Julie as the subject for her newest book and Julie feeding Sarah's morbid fantasies, first unconsciously, then consciously.
For about two thirds of the film, writer/director Francois Ozon presents us with the classic - one might almost say stereotypical - conflict between a moralistic, sexually repressed, almost "frigid" British woman and a beautiful, uninhibited and sensual Continental nymphet. But, as the story progresses, a certain personality transference begins to take place, with Sarah taking on some of the traits of the girl she professes to despise and Julie finding a way to "help" Sarah complete her novel. I can't say that I completely understand the last half hour or so of the film, although I do suspect that the answer lies somewhere along the line of last year's "Adaptation," which also dealt with the art of writing and the strange blending of the real and the surreal, of truth and fantasy that often accompanies the act. Suffice it to say that you will either go with the film all the way to the end or tune out at about the 70-minute point.
In addition to Rampling's amazing performance as the uptight middle-aged woman (one recalls, with a certain wistful amusement, that, in 1966's "Georgy Girl," it was SHE who played the promiscuous femme fatale), the film offers us the beautiful and talented Ludivine Sagnier as Julie, a street smart kid who knows how to exploit her sex appeal for all its worth yet who occasionally displays moments of childlike tenderness and vulnerability beneath the hardened surface.
You may end up scratching your head at the end of "Swimming Pool," but I guarantee it will get you thinking.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating!!!, July 12, 2003
Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is a British mystery writer at the very end of her creative rope. Hoping to recharge her creative batteries, Sarah takes off to stay at her publisher's house in rural France for a long holiday. Once there, Sarah finds that the open air and countryside agree with her, and soon, she begins writing again. Enter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier from Ozon's 8 Women), the publisher's young daughter, who has come to stay at the house as well. While Sarah tries desperately to work, her interest in Julie's volcanic life, both sexual and personal, boils over and begins to consume her writing and sanity.
Refreshingly, `Swimming Pool' is a kind of old fashioned sexually themed mystery that few attempt anymore. The film comes from the mind of Francois Ozon, famed French filmmaker, and one who has made it a point to keep his career fresh with ever changing genre explorations (`Under The Sand,' `Water Drops On Burning Rocks'). His last film was the certifiable everything-but-the-kitchen-sink musical/mystery `8 Women,' and showcased that even when the material isn't all that sturdy to support Ozon's insanity, he still can create some compelling cinema. This is his first English language film and it is definitely a refreshing change from all the lackluster summer films.
`Swimming Pool' takes place in a creative dream state in which reality can be hard to distinguish from the creative process. Ozon has decided to wrap a formulaic murder plot around this theme, taking the audience on a journey in which nothing is quite what it seems. To achieve full audience attention, the picture is also peppered with liberal nudity (Sangnier's character requires it) and heated sexual situations, mixing with the other elements to form an engrossing mystery which, eventually, has no resolution. As the film progresses, Ozon gets more abstract with his ideas, at the same time dropping clues to where this is all headed. `Swimming Pool' does have moments where it's utterly intoxicating and mysterious. There are some brilliant moments of suspense that would make Hitchcock proud.
Reuniting with her `Under The Sand' director, legendary actress Charlotte Rampling seems to have found her acting niche with Ozon. This is a very mannered performance, with the audience following Sarah as she metamorphoses from an uptight snob, making careful choices in food, men, and ideals, to the laid back woman she becomes with Julie, partaking in drugs, friendliness, and voyeurism. Rampling connects the dots without skipping a beat, making Ozon's eventual explanation for all these events somewhat of a let down. She's great in a film that ultimately fails her, but it's often worth the time just to see how Rampling and Ozon get themselves out of these bizarre situations.
This is a wonderful thriller, recommended to those who like to think and enjoy long discussions about the film right afterward. A deliciously clever mystery with bite.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars clever and thought provoking, October 26, 2004
This review is from: Swimming Pool (Unrated Version) (DVD)
This was one of the best films I saw last year. I'm a huge fan of Francois Ozon. He is brilliant at creating films full of suspense and sexual tension and Swimming Pool is no exception. I wouldn't recommend this film unless you're a fan of Ozon, French films, Charlotte Rampling or the unbelievably gorgeous and talented Ludivine Sagnier (check out her remarkably different and dynamic performances in Ozon's 8 Women or Water Drops On Burning Rocks).

!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!

The end makes absolute sense. You just have to pay very close attention to every detail of the film. Sarah knew her publisher had a daughter named Julie but she NEVER met her, hence the ending. When Sarah arrives at the cottage everything up to the point when she goes into town and sees the waiter for the first time is real. Everything after Julie's arrival at the cottage is Sarah's novel. None of it happened at all. Sarah imagined what it would be like if Julie, whom she never met, unexpectedly arrived at the cottage full of youth and full blown sexuality and what would the consequences of their meeting be if they both had a thing for the waiter who briefly flirted with Sarah on her first day in town. So at the end, when chubby braces wearing Julie walks into the office, she's not the Julie we saw throughout the entire film because that Julie and everything associated with her was a figment of Sarah's imagination.

Those who didn't understand the ending or don't like intellectually challenging films hated the movie. It definitely makes you scratch your head and say "Huh?" but if you really think long and hard about what you just saw you'll realize Swimming Pool is a very clever and thought provoking film. Ozon rocks!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Puzzle for You to Solve., January 21, 2004
This review is from: Swimming Pool (Unrated Version) (DVD)
Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) is a middle-aged British mystery novelist. Burned out on writing and tired of the climate in London, she accepts an invitation from her publisher, John (Charles Dance), to spend some time relaxing at his villa in Southern France. The change of scenery gets her creative juices flowing, but shortly after Sarah has settled in, John's daughter Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) turns up with plans to stay. At first Sarah is annoyed by Julie's daring and promiscuous lifestyle. But gradually Sarah takes an interest in the young woman and allows herself to be sucked into Sarah's emotional intrigues.
There is a lot that I would love to say about this film, but the nature of "Swimming Pool" is such that I can say very little that will not spoil the film for those who have not yet seen it. "Swimming Pool" is an unusual and ingenious variety of mystery. I will say this much: Pay close attention. Things are not as the seem.
François Ozon's screenplay may be the best of 2003. It's certainly the most sinuous. I'm sure that some will say -not without some justification- that it's too clever for its own good. My one reservation about "Swimming Pool" is that it may be too subtle. Too much of the audience is left thinking that the events of the film are to be taken at face value. And the film doesn't begin to make sense if taken at face value. The audience is given enough information to figure out what has transpired. -But just enough. We do have to figure it out for ourselves. Normally, a film of this kind would explain itself a few scenes before the end. But François Ozon has chosen not to spell anything out for his audience. I enjoyed the puzzle. It's gratifying once it clicks and everything makes sense. But I fear "Swimming Pool" is too esoteric for wide audience appeal. I give it an enthusiastic recommendation, though. "Swimming Pool" is one of the most original, clever, and intriguing movies that I've seen.
The DVD: Previews are unfortunately unavoidable. Bonus features include one theatrical trailer and deleted scenes. Most of the deleted scenes are entirely inconsequential, but one actually confuses matters, so I don't recommend them. Dubbing is available in French. Subtitles are available in French, Spanish, and English. I sure wish there were an interview with writer/director François Ozon, but no such luck. There are more bonus features, including a commentary by Ozon (presumably in French), on the French Region 2 DVD 2-disc set for anyone who is interested.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality/illusion, fact/fiction, Apollo/Dionysus and more, August 7, 2003
By 
THE SWIMMING POOL is a consummate movie experience. Rarely have we been treated to script writing, direction, acting, music scoring, and cinematography melded into such a cohesive masterwork. Francois Ozon is a fine, brave, and very sensitive director who has the good fortune to work with the always solid Charlotte Rampling and the newcomer of incredible promise, Ludivine Sagnier.
On the surface the film relates the predicament of Sarah, a writer of murder and crime novels (the very British, uptight Rampling) who is dealing with being a 50ish female without a sensuous life but with a successful writing career. Writers' block leads to the suggestion by her publisher (whom she sees as a potential lover) that she go to his home in France for peace and quiet - a place to find the 'real woman' within the writer.
Up to this point the story is fairly straight forward, but once ensconced in France (in a haven-like home in the country) Sarah begins to observe her surroundings, observe facts and people and gradually transfers those observations into a flowing book that represents resolutions for all her occult desires and needs. Is Sagnier's Julie (daughter of the publisher who just happens to pop in to stay in the house Sarah believes is her solo retreat) real or is she a figment of Sarah's writer imagination? And this is where many people who see the film diverge ways: are we watching an actual story or have we entered the fertile mind of a richly gifted writer, breaking out of her Apollonian state into her desparately desired Dionysian world? The story can be taken on many levels and to push one interpretation as the sole version would be unfair. It is such a pleasure to see a thinking person's movie in the midst of all the summer commercial noise. Treat yourself to an evening of very fine work on the part of everyone involved in this superb film. Make up your own mind as to what is real and what is make-believe!
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Swimming Pool (Unrated Version)
Swimming Pool (Unrated Version) by Francois Ozon (DVD - 2005)
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