July 11, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Swimming Pool

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
102 minutes
Wide Release Date
07/02/03
performer
Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance
director
Francois Ozon
distributor
Focus Features
author
Emmanuele Bernheim, Francois Ozon
genre
Mystery and Thriller
We gave it a B+

In Swimming Pool, as in all French filmmaker François Ozon’s loveliest work, sensuously photographed paradise is disturbed by a thrum of sexually charged anxiety. The Eden that Ozon creates in his first English-language feature (two years after his elegant marital mystery, ”Under the Sand”) is housed in an idyllic country retreat in France’s beautiful Lubéron region, where Sarah Morton, a famous, prickly British whodunit author (”Sand” star Charlotte Rampling) goes to rejuice her creative batteries. The place belongs to her publisher, John Bosload (Charles Dance), and Sarah relishes her solitude so much that the unexpected arrival of John’s French daughter, Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), comes as a major annoyance. Then it gets worse: Ripe Julie flaunts her provocative sexuality (and preference for languid nudity) in front of the spinsterish older woman, and unsavory men trail in the young siren’s wake.

It’s ours to decide what’s real and what (like Sarah’s fiction) is not; Ozon specializes, after all, in creating seductive dream states that bump up against nightmares. He also specializes in treating his actresses like goddesses: Sagnier was among the octet in his ”8 Women,” and Rampling owes her career rejuvenation to the perfection with which Ozon handled her enigmatic complications in ”Under the Sand.” The narrative logic of ”Swimming Pool” slips through our hands like cool water, shimmery and light-dappled, leaving behind the pleasures of summer heat and goose bumps.

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